Microsoft, Washington Battle 'Scareware' Sellers

In a statement issued Monday, the Seattle-based Washington State Attorney General's Office announced the latest lawsuit in its three year old joint campaign with Microsoft to smoke out security scammers and bring them to justice.

Filed Monday, the Attorney General's Office latest lawsuit targets James Reed McCreary IV, who heads up two Texas-based businesses that sell a program called Registry Cleaner XP, which employs the typical 'Your registry is corrupted -- click here to find out how to fix it' ruse.

According to the filing, McCreary was responsible for triggering pop-up messages on users' PCs that read "CRITICAL ERROR MESSAGE! " REGISTRY DAMAGED AND CORRUPTED", which would direct users to purchase and download a $39.95 program called Registrycleaner XP.

The state of Washington in 2005 passed one of the nation's first anti-spyware laws, and legislators recently expanded the scope of the law to include false claims about the need for PC repairs, which opened the door for the lawsuit against McCreary.

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"We won't tolerate the use of alarmist warnings or deceptive 'free scans' to trick consumers into buying software to fix a problem that doesn't even exist," said State Attorney General Rob McKenna, in a statement.

Brian Haboush, vice president of business development at Intelligent Connections, a Royal Oak, Mich.-based solution provider, says using fear as a marketing vehicle undermines the efforts of security VARs to manage real information security risk.

"Crying wolf is a bad long term strategy for building trust and confidence with your clients," said Haboush.