Cyber criminals make big bucks with scareware

computer cash

Cyber criminal kingpins can make profits of more than 850,000 by pushing fake antivirus software, according to research from Symantec.

The business behind these scams is becoming more organised, with Symantec revealing that it has already uncovered 250 different fake security programs or scareware'.

Other unscrupulous computer users could also cash in by joining as an affiliate on a distribution site, where they are given the tools to distribute, promote and market the fake software.

They would get paid if they tricked a user into installing the scareware, with Symantec claiming that the top affiliates could earn as much as 56,000 a month.

David Wall, a cybercrime expert from Leeds University, said that cyber criminals were seeking the victims, perpetuating the scam and collecting the money in an automated way.

"I'm not sure we've seen those three functions in that one package work so effectively in the past," he told IT PRO.

Wall called it a form of "entrapment marketing" as people believed that they were buying a genuine service.

News of the scame comes as security firm Panda revealed that some cyber criminals were trying to hold people to ransom, denying users access to their computer until they paid up for fake antivirus.

Wall said one of the problems of this scam was that users were conned out of a relatively small amount of money, so it was very hard for victims to go to the police.

"The offence isn't really serious enough to commit investigation resources," he said. "[Currently] the police only investigates frauds over a certain amount of money."

The professor said that the National Fraud Reporting Centre could be the light at the end of the tunnel, as it could potentially investigate this type of small-scale fraud.