A hearty slap on the back must go to authorities in South Korea who have arrested and charged the 41 year old ex-CEO of an antivirus software company with distributing fake security scareware. Lee Shin-ja was formerly CEO with security outfit Media Port, and stands accused of distributing the 'free' bogus software to an astonishing 3.96 million users since 2005, with 1.26 million of them going on to buy the full product. Of course, they only reached for the wallet after being presented by fake security warnings in the free product which directed them to upgrade in order to clean the non-existent infection from their PC.

Shin-ja is reported to have made something in the region of 9.2 billion won (which works out to $10 million) in less than 3 years, all thanks to the $4 per month subscription fee levied for use of Doctor Virus, the application required to fix those fake infections. "More and more people are becoming concerned about the security of their personal computer - and it's all too easy for the unscrupulous to try and fool users into believing a bogus warning," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Unlike many other countries, it's not uncommon for South Korean computer users to run multiple anti-virus programs at the same time - probably because many of their homegrown solutions don't come with an on-access scanner," explained Cluley. "This environment increases the likelihood that people will download and 'test the water' with a product they stumbled across on the internet. Unfortunately it seems there are cybercriminals desperate for increasing marketshare who are prepared to scare users into making an ill-informed security purchase."

An unnamed spokesperson for Doctor Virus claims that their software is no longer displaying bogus security warnings.

About the Author

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

I love the last line of your story, that they released a statement acknowledging they were doing this and that now they aren't, so now it's okay to go ahead and buy their software.

The phrase 'beggars belief' comes to mind, doesn't it? :)

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