Security & Privacy + Software & Apps

The Economics of Scareware

Posted on March 24th, 2009 by

We have reported here about two scareware programs that target the Mac, Macsweepr and iMunizator, both of which are "rogue" security programs that claim to clean malware from your Mac while actually performing some nefarious tasks. The BBC has published an article about scareware, explaining how the evil-doers behind this software manage to ensnare their victims.

Using advanced search engine optimization techniques (tricks that get certain websites to appear as top results on search engines) and running bogus "scans" on computers and telling potential victims are infected, they manage to trap enough users to make as much as $10,000 a day. Two groups of "hi-tech criminals" work together: "One group compromises webpages and injects them with popular search terms, the other sells the fake security software." The former use popular search keywords to try and trap people into visiting websites, which then tell users that their computers are infected.

One researcher "got access to the web-based systems that one group of 'scareware' peddlers used to manage their search engine campaigns. It found that, over a 16-day period, more than 1.8m people were re-directed to the sites pushing the 'scareware'. Of those visiting the sites 7-12% installed the fake software and 1.79% paid $50 for it."

This adds up to a lot of money and nets users nothing but problems. We've said it here before but it's worth repeating: computer security is too serious an issue to trust companies who just happen to pop up in your search results. Trust a brand like Intego, who has more than ten years of experience and who is a specialist in Mac security software.

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