Scareware Indictments Put Cybercriminals on Notice

Posted by Tim Cranton
Associate General Counsel, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit
Today the FBI announced federal indictments returned against three culprits charged with disseminating a major malware scheme believed to have caused $100 million in losses to victims worldwide. The scheme revolved around a form of malware called “scareware,” which falsely persuades consumers that they need to purchase useless and expensive software to protect their computers. Microsoft is proud to have supported the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice in these cases, which send a clear and important message to cyber-criminals that they will be caught and brought to justice.
The scheme in these indictments was global, complex and sophisticated. The scareware went by various names, including WinFixer – meant to mislead consumers into associating the bogus software with trusted Microsoft products. At one time, WinFixer and its variants are thought to have been responsible for 75 percent of scareware worldwide.
Two of the three defendants indicted in this case are non-U.S. residents, accused of working with an Ohio resident to perpetrate the scheme. This illustrates how cybercrime has become global. Boundaries and jurisdictions are irrelevant to cyber-criminals. The problem can’t be tackled by any single entity working alone; strong cooperation is needed among governments, law enforcement and technology companies.
In the period leading up to these indictments, investigators from Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, with the support of Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center and Customer Support Services, helped provide data to the FBI on damages caused by the scheme. We also testified before the grand jury to provide forensic analysis on the malware involved. Microsoft participated in the case not only because the scheme traded on Microsoft’s name and trademarks as a means of luring victims, but also because we believe in the importance of a trustworthy and reliable computing experience for everyone.
The Department of Justice and the FBI have put a stake in the ground to protect consumers; at Microsoft, we stand beside them in the fight to make the Internet a safer place.