We've all seen those incessant pop up ads that claim that our PCs
are infected with spyware and we need to purchase product "X" to
clean our machine. What happens if that product doesn't work and in
fact is a fraud itself?
Microsoft is taking legal action against one such company
alleging that Secure Computer LLC, "used deceptive pop-up ads to
warn users that their computers were at risk and could contain
Nancy Anderson, deputy general counsel for Microsoft explained
that at the heart of the case is the allegation that Secure Computer
LLC was misleading people into thinking that if they paid for $49.95
they would get a product that would do something.
"The product did not do what it was purported to do," Anderson
told internetnews.com. "They raised false alarms with people and the
risks they had, they misrepresented who they were by suggesting they
were from Microsoft."
"There was a web of deception that they preyed upon consumers
Microsoft filed the lawsuit in the state of Washington, which
itself is also taking legal action against Secure Computer. The
action by the attorney general of Washington State and Microsoft is
the first under the recently-enacted Washington Computer Spyware
Under the act, computer software is not allowed to transmit or
collect information about a user's computer without the permission
of the user. It also prohibits the misrepresentation of software
that claims to be required for security or privacy that really
Secure Computer LLC is a New York State-based company but
Anderson noted that it makes sense to bring the action in Washington
State for a number of reasons. Microsoft wanted to take advantage of
the Washington Spyware law, and, among others, Microsoft is alleging
harm to Washington consumers. The kinds of deceptive practices
outlined by Microsoft's action are also protected under state
consumer protection laws that every state has as well.
It's not entirely clear at this point the total magnitude of the
alleged damages wrought by Secure Computer LLC. Anderson explained
that the magnitude will be developed during the course of
"We believe that it preyed on thousands of consumer and bilked
consumer in the aggregate of thousands if not millions of dollars,"
Anderson added. "There is a magnitude issue in addition as we had
consumers of Microsoft who complained to us that they had been
defrauded for spending good money on bad stuff."
The fight against spyware and those who prey on fear of spyware
will continue at Microsoft.
"We continue to focus our investigative and technical resources
against this problem," Anderson said. "So for sure you will see more