According to a Washington Post article, Microsoft and the state of Washington recently filed lawsuits against a number of scareware vendors. They’re finally taking on the scammers who are trying to trick us into buying worthless (or worse, malicious) “security” software.

One of the lawsuits specifically charges Texas-based Branch Software with involvement in the “Registry Cleaner XP” scam. A number of other “john doe” lawsuits were filed in an attempt to learn the identities of the individuals responsible for marketing other scareware products such as WinDefender, XPDefender, Antivirus2009 and Scan & Repair Utilities.

Kudos to Microsoft for finally attempting to do something about these scammers. Now if they’d just reset the defaults in their own software so it wasn’t so vulnerable in the first place…

Until they do, make sure you keep your computer fully patched, never bypass the firewall and be cautious of any suspicious links or pop-ups – especially ones telling you that your computer needs fixing.

If your office has an IT specialist, make sure he/she is signed up for regular alerts about the latest technical security vulnerabilities. These alerts will help you prioritize which patches need immediate remediation and which can wait while you test them for unintended consequences. Here are a few that I’ve found to be reasonably thorough:

  • US-CERT (US Computer Emergency Readiness Team)
  • Internet Storm Center (a service of
  • BOL Tech Talk (a service of
  • Internet Security Systems’ X-Force Threat List (recently purchased by IBM)

If you don’t have someone who can watch and evaluate these notifications, you probably need to set your patches to automatically update themselves and hope that the patch doesn’t break anything else accidentally.

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