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Loathe lowdown scareware scams? Lawsuit claims Speedy PC Pro is fraudulent software

Sep 13, 20126 mins
Data and Information SecurityEnterprise ApplicationsMalware

There are "scary" lawsuits and then there's scareware. SpeedyPC, which falsely claims to be a Microsoft Partner, has been named in a lawsuit for 'fraudulently inducing people to buy fraudulent software that supposedly speeds up and protects computers.'

Browsing courthouse news can result in reading about “scary” allegations, lawsuits covering everything from people “wrongfully” arrested at a “haunted house” during a paranormal investigation, to a more serious class action lawsuit that, if true, clearly shows the company doesn’t comprehend that gamers come in ages. Mosaic Sales Solutions, a sales company that “demonstrates Microsoft video game products,” requires job applicants to “submit pictures of themselves and won’t hire older candidates who do not ‘reflect the Kinect and Xbox image.'” It supposedly favors “Generation Y” applicants, so anyone over age 40 stands no chance of being hired. However, it was the lawsuit about scareware that really caught my eye, because who knows how many tens of millions of people have been tricked by such cyber-scam software. Don’t you just loathe lowdown scareware scammers?

You know the type of software that supposedly will help clean an infection from a PC or speed it up, that when downloaded, manages to come up with a huge list of malware infection threats or Windows registry errors that are not true. It “scares” the user into paying for the software to remove supposed threats. Scareware is especially offensive to me, promising to fix a problem that didn’t usually exist in the first place. Too many people who really don’t have a clue about security are duped into believing and paying for software that lied to acquire that customer. The FBI has repeatedly busted scareware distributors that have fleeced the frightened into paying out countless millions.

Under a sub-header called “Bogus,” the Courthouse News Service reported:

Speedy PC Pro Software fraudulently induces people to buy fraudulent software that supposedly speeds up and protects computers, a class action claims in Federal Court.

The claims include [PDF] that after Speedy PC Pro’s “free” scanner checked the plaintiff’s computer, it found “thousands” of errors ranging from “viruses, malware and privacy threats” and buried the warning gauge needles into the red “critical” stages. It also warned her that “these problems were decreasing her computer’s performance and compromising her security” and “urgently needed repair.” She tried clicking “Fix All” but was told “SpeedyPC Pro detected some problems that need to be fixed,” and was instructed to “Register SpeedyPC Pro now!” So she coughed up 40 bucks to find out it allegedly didn’t work as advertised, and that the “free scan” gives everyone such “critical” and “urgent” errors. She is now suing SpeedyPC “for its practice of defrauding consumers.”

The plaintiff’s attorney points out other scareware scam lawsuits from SpeedyPC competitors, like “Symantec Corp and AVG Technologies” have alleged “similar claims related to the fraudulent design and marketing of so-called utility software products. Several of those cases have resulted in class-wide settlements and industry-shaping software modifications, which compel the implementation of far more transparent error detection and reporting procedure.” But many such “reputable” firms have tried scareware tactics that are disgusting!

Ironically, the SpeedyPC website claims to be a “Microsoft Partner,” but 9 flipping hours after asking Microsoft if this was true, Microsoft still hadn’t supplied a definitive “Yes” or “No” and was instead still checking. How silly for me to think Microsoft would have a database to look up the answers to such “difficult” questions. Then right before clicking publish, the Mighty M came through for us and confirmed, “SpeedyPC is NOT a Microsoft Partner.”

That’s great news, since a search at Microsoft Answers comes back with many such questions, answered with “The fact that they are a Microsoft Partner surprises me not at all” to “Anybody can take any logo they want and stick it on their WWW page.” SpeedyPC is also not listed on the Microsoft Active Protections Program, but now it’s clearly because the company is scamming on Microsoft the same as consumers. I hope Microsoft bites SpeedyPC for shamefully claiming to be a partner. You know that further tricks the security clueless into thinking it’s all good.

SpeedyPC also claims its software “scans your PC in search of ActiveX and Windows registry errors, process performance problems, dangerous malware, privacy files and junk files. It then goes about eliminating these problems, which means no more slow computer, clutter, error messages, freezing, crashes or erratic performance.”

After a piece of Chinese malware called ACAD/Medre.A was stealing AutoCAD files for industrial espionage this summer, the security solution firm ESET warned, “There are always people who want to piggy-back on the achievements of others.” The post went on to explain how one site listed numerous untrue symptoms of a malware infection and promised to remove the nasty infection if only you would download their miracle software. ESET researcher Righard Zwienenberg noted that “Spyware Doctor, a genuine utility published by PC Tools, a Symantec company, is not what gets downloaded or installed at all. What actually gets downloaded (and installed if you choose) are three different ‘tools’.” And surprise, surprise: one of those ‘tools’ was Speedy PC Pro.

It then found “a mere sixty-three (63) problems that required my attention. Not bad for a clean – fully patched – disk image of a PC running Microsoft Windows with a sole ACAD/Medre.A infection. What is bad is that this program, also advertised as part of the Medre.A removal process, does not detect the malware either.”

I asked ESET North America about Speedy PC Pro and if the AutoCAD espionage threat was still ongoing. Distinguished ESET Researcher Aryeh Goretsky told me, “Our main concern about Speedy PC Pro was that it was offered as an integral part of removing ACAD/Medre.A from infected systems when, in fact, it did nothing to detect or remove the worm. We are still seeing a small amount of ACAD/Medre.A detections, although it appears to be on the decline.”

Let’s hope the security-challenged don’t fall for the fear tricks of scareware! Regardless of what the California lawsuit determines, I don’t recommend falling for SpeedyPC’s scam…um I meant scan?

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.