Lyle Frink

17 March 2011

Attack of the semi-fake antivirus

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We know what fake antivirus is: malware posing as real antivirus while hijacking your computer and wallet. Then there is real antivirus: applications such as avast! and our competitors.

And now there is a third category: semi-fake antivirus. It’s not a blatant malware attack and may actually include a real antivirus application. From a strictly technical perspective, it might not even be called malware.

But one thing is clear: it is still taking money from consumers in a way that some would call fraudulent.

Recently, I got an email from the UK-based Computeractive about an irate customer wanting a refund on avast! Pro. It seems that the person went on the internet, searched for avast, and found a site offering special download services and videos. They ended up getting a messed-up computer and spending over $100.

And then there is the French Connection: avast2011.fr-01.net. Combining avast, the year, and a major French IT portal together into a very attractive domain name; hackers created something that scored very well with search engines. Visitors to this site could spend a couple Euros for a premium SMS permitting them to download a copy of avast! Free Antivirus.

For both suspect sites, the fine print in the legal agreement says they provide only links to the software sites. Are they fraudulent? Well, I am not a lawyer. But, Justice Potter Stewart of the United States Supreme Court, famously said “I know it when I see it. I think this could apply here.

The real lesson here is that consumers need to be far more skeptical about the results served up by their web browser. When possible, go directly to the company website. And when in doubt, leave. As the fine print on one suspect site states: ”If you do not understand or do not agree to be bound by this privacy policy, you must immediately leave the website.”

I agree. Better sooner than later.

If you have any other examples of such sites, please let me know.

 

Customer Service, Antivirus, Technology, Marketing, scams, SMS hoax, fraud, fake antivirus