Symantec accused of using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

Symantec accused of using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

Summary: Anti-virus maker Symantec is charged in a lawsuit with misleading users into purchasing full versions of its software by peddling 'scareware' tactics.

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Security firm Symantec is being taken to court over claims that the company's flagship anti-malware and performance software suites mislead consumers into buying full versions of its products.

The suit, which seeks class action status, was brought by Washington state resident James Gross. It was filed in the District Court of San Jose, California on Tuesday on behalf of his lawyers, according to Reuters.

The complaint alleges that misleading 'scare' tactics are being used by Symantec in its Norton Utilities, PC Tools Registry Mechanic, and PC Tools Performance Toolkit products. The claims also suggest the software range always report harmful errors, privacy risks and other issues that exist, regardless of whether they actually exist.

Many 'scareware' tactics used by online scammers intercept websites and display within the browser a simulation of an anti-virus scan, that invariably tells the user that the PC they are using is infected.

"The software is falsely informing the consumer that errors are high priority and in addition it is falsely informing the consumer that their overall system health and privacy health is low", the complaint stated.

"The truth, however, is that the scareware does not actually perform any meaningful evaluation of the user's computer system, or of the supposed 'errors' detected by the software".

One analyst said that the claims would be difficult to prove. Andy Kellett, senior analyst at Ovum, said speaking to The Inquirer: "It's a tricky one as there are lots of unknowns, how do you prove Symantec is in the wrong?", adding: "It's not something that has been done before".

The news comes only a week after Symantec confirmed an Indian hacker group hacked a "third-party" and acquired source code relating to an enterprise anti-virus solution the company once offered.

While the lawsuit will likely go Symantec's way, it is nevertheless been a bad month for the security firm.

A Symantec spokesperson said it was "aware" of the allegations made, but declined to offer additional comment at the time of publication.

Image source: Flickr.

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Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Software

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138 comments
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  • Why is scareware so sucessful to start with?

    Symantec and McAfee, and others, have been using these tactics for years.
    zmud
    • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

      @zmud

      Yes they have. Good for this person - hope he prevails. I am all for free enterprise, but being a sophisticated PC user and hearing others buying Norton or McAfee because they were told to by their computer 'or else' infuriates me. The buyers cannot hope to make an educated decision because the very nature of software is supposed to prevent the very scam they are perpetrating. Another good piece of news today!
      YahooTom
    • My friend Loverock Davidson the CEO of exploits at Symantec assured me

      their was no truth that they were using scareware tactics to increase sales. If Loverock say's its the truth, than it has to be ........ right?
      Over and Out
      • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

        @SoYouSaid Now want to buy the brooklyn bridge????
        foxie9876@...
    • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

      @zmud

      Yep!

      How do you know that any of those companies hire criminals to write malware just to sell their product?
      Zolar
    • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

      @zmud "Symantec and McAfee, and others, have been using these tactics for years."
      Fear is a Best tactic to control Americans all these years. We cannot living in fear forever. These crooks are more cunning because nobody is willing to stand up on them.
      Netteligent
      • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

        @Netteligent Indeed. Same reason we'll likely be dropping bombs on Iran before the election.
        PepperdotNet
  • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

    Doesn't surprise me... Norton and McAfee (and some others) have always played the game of "your computer may be at risk so install our products".

    I gave up using paid for security software years ago but even when I did they always told me that my computer was at risk because I didn't use their brand of firewall or other parts of their suite. I always had to laugh because as an IT professional I take the security of my personal computers and the computers/servers I manage and support at work very seriously. I know I need security software/hardware to protect myself but not one that hounds me and gives me false information just to scare money out of my wallet.
    bobiroc
    • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

      @bobiroc

      Hounds you? How is warning you about something on a website (which you can then report to the website owner) that is bad 'hounding you'? Sheer insanity and stupidity here.
      Lerianis10
      • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

        @Lerianis10

        First of all the name calling is not necessary, but I am sure if you talk to anyone that uses those suites they are constantly popping up with alerts and information about products/features that can be added or alerting you of every little change. They may UAC look mild. Many of the things that get notified are not warnings of anything security related and not necessary. There are other security softwares that do what the need to do and protect just as well without having a notification center that hops on your screen like a monkey on crack.

        So instead of covering up your lack of knowledge and understanding or insecurity by calling someone else stupid maybe you need to get a clue.
        bobiroc
      • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

        @bobiroc

        Uh, bobiroc.... I USE THAT SUITE! I see MAYBE one alert a day for something like this and it's usually an alert that I wish to see, because somebody is trying to get into my PC illegitimately or there is something 'bad' on a webpage that I immediately inform the website owner about.

        Norton is doing the right thing here. It is just sheer insanity and stupidity (it's not name-calling, it's what I really think about anyone who uses the argument that you used) to say that you SHOULDN'T be alerted for things like this.
        Lerianis10
      • RE: I USE THAT SUITE!

        @Lerianis10

        Well good for you... I tend to think only stupid people pay for their security software when there are so many free ones out there that protect just as well if not better in some cases. Unless you run a business not eligible for a Free suite of utilities then you are wasting money. I prefer to use a good hardware or dedicated firewall that blocks these things and logs attempts without the notification interrupting my work. I have not used the suites myself in a long time but have clients that do and they almost always say something is not secure enough and that they should buy something extra from that company's set of tools. I have worked on several systems that behind my very strong firewall and with tight security implemented saying that they need something more. Alerts are nice but only if they are actually relevant and do not interfere with the computer operation and piss off the users. There are softwares that can offer excellent protection and do their job without being a nag.

        Have a Good Day!
        bobiroc
      • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

        @Lerianis10
        Did you even read the article or the discussions?
        Helmersy
    • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

      @bobiroc
      Kapersky does a pretty good job of just sitting in the background and not annoying the user.
      commchf
      • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

        @commchf I had Kaspersky at one point. Seems alright but it didn't tolerate mis-encoded files. Tried to open a file with "%20" in it (http for a space) and Kaspersky bricked my OS. I'm assuming newer versions have fixed this, but honestly, Kaspersky is the second least annoying paid security software in my opinion.

        But, I think I'll stick with Malwarebytes, PeerBlock and SpyBot. I've been spotless for 4 years now.
        Then again, I also pay close attention to websites I view, e-mails I read, and files I download. The very few infections I've download the past four years Malwarebytes and SpyBot have picked up. Also, Chrome deletes all data (though synced) when closed.
        Z3R0D4Y
      • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

        Double post...
        Z3R0D4Y
      • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

        Kaspersky is even worse. Alerts come at almost every installation of a software(happened with my friend, every time he tried to install something, kaspersky popped up), plus if you're using a trial version, get ready for a nag every time you log in.
        MayankSingh_781
      • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

        @commchf Yeah, but the important thing isn't annoying users, who are already annoyed. It's not getting ripped off by fraud or having the user do the same. I'll be watching this webinar tomorrow on the 18th cause I think they'll bring it straight. Whatever you think of Dell, I think Trend is the better security http://ow.ly/8wJLm
        ITsecuritynoc
    • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

      @bobiroc
      It's about time Symantec is cut down to size. They, like Kaspersky, are run-of-the-mill security programs, leaves registry entries, after an uninstall, that cannot be removed & Scott Cooper of Kaspersky plays games when requesting removal instructions... run away from these companies and their inferior products.
      retired_gfx@...
  • RE: Symantec accused in using 'scareware' tactics to sell full-version products

    oh yeah. i knew about their scheme a while back and never used their products again. it happened when i installed one of their programs, (don't remember which one) but i think it was the a.v. w/firewall support. in any case, after i did so the program was telling me that someone from china was trying to hack into my pc. it even showed me a little map of the location in china. anyways, this was ridiculous to me. however, i kept getting constant messages about virus's on my system. which was also ridiculous and annoying. when the year was up and time to renew, i cancelled. never had a virus since then nor threats of someone from china trying to tap into my pc.
    databaseben