Wired article on Scareware


Oct 29, 2004
After rebranding it WinAntiVirus, IMI began buying pop-up ads that blared fake alerts about problems on users’ hard drives — for example, “You have 284 severe system threats.” These ads prompted customers to download a free trial or pay $39.95 and up for IMI’s subpar software. Once installed, the trial versions pumped yet more ads into the user’s web browser, pestering people to shell out the full price. It was a deeply ironic scheme: Jain and Sundin planned to exploit consumer fears of viruses in order to spread what was, in effect, another virus — and the victims would pay for the privilege.

The plan worked. People were so spooked by the Blaster worm, a coworker would later recall, that Jain boasted he could be selling “a block of ice” and still make money. Soon, IMI was pulling in $1 million a month. Jain and Sundin quickly turned their attention away from their other, lesser scams and concentrated on their new cash cow. IMI had found its killer app.

How Two Scammers Built an Empire Hawking Sketchy Software - Readability