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Lawsuit claims Symantec makes 'scareware’

Software might be lying
Wed Jan 11 2012, 12:32

SECURITY VENDOR Symantec is being taken to court by a US resident over its software.

James Gross from Washington state has filed a class-action seeking lawsuit in San Jose, California against Symantec. He claims that the firm uses misleading information in trials of its software to scare consumers into buying a full version, according to Reuters.

Chandler Givens, an attorney for Mr Gross said, "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 specifically relates to Symantec's Norton Utilities, PC Tools Registry Mechanic and PC Tools Performance Toolkit software packages. It is said the software always reports various security risks on the PC after a scan regardless of the actual state of the computer.

This sounds much like what fake antivirus malware does to try to lure a user into paying for protection, which is known as 'scareware'. In simple terms the lawsuit is claiming that Symantec lies to consumers.

The complaint says, "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."

It alleges, "The scareware does not, and cannot, actually perform the valuable tasks represented by Symantec through its websites, advertising, and in-software display screens."

A spokesperson for Symantec said, "Symantec is aware of the allegations made in court in San Jose, CA concerning some of our Norton and PC Tools solutions. However, given the early state of litigation, we have no additional information to provide at this time to the story."

Andy Kellett, senior analyst at Ovum said, "It's a tricky one as there are lots of unknowns, how do you prove Symantec is in the wrong?" He added, "It's not something that's been done before."

He thinks it's unlikely that the software is lying as that would put the company in a vulnerable position, so it's possible that it is picking up on any possible sign of threats. Kellet opined that it is probable that the lawsuit will go Symantec's way. µ


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