Korea Investigates Anti-Spyware Makers

Korean government asks police to look into 'anti-spyware' tools that actually spread spyware

The Korean government Wednesday requested police to investigate seven makers of antivirus and anti-spyware programs that it says are actually promulgating spyware and viruses.

According to a report in today's Korea Times, the country's Ministry of Information and Communication is warning users that "many antivirus programs sold on the market are themselves acting as viruses, and some of them are cleverly ripping users off."

The Korea Consumer Agency said last week that it had received 499 complaints regarding anti-spyware this year, up 80 percent from the same period last year, according to the report. About three quarters of the victims said the firms did not properly notify them about extension of the service.

The ministry confirmed the report, saying it found that about half of 118 anti-spyware programs available in Korea are programmed to automatically charge the consumers after their initial contract expires.

In some cases, users are lured into downloading anti-spyware programs that are even harder to remove from a PC than the spyware itself, according to the ministry. In the worst cases, attackers warn users that their computers have been infected with spyware, then direct them to purchase anti-spyware programs that may actually add more spyware of their own, the ministry told Korea Times.

The ministry would not give out the names of the vendors, stating that the police investigation is ongoing. Many users in the U.S. and other countries have also fallen victim to anti-spyware schemes, but this is the first instance of a government requesting an investigation of specific vendors.

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