Microsoft Takes ‘Malvertisers’ to Court

Microsoft on Friday said it has sued five so-called “malvertisers” in Seattle civil court as part of an effort to stop the practice of hiding malicious code in seemingly safe online ads that instead seek to prey on users.

“[Malvertiser] ads may redirect users to a website that advertises rogue security software, also known as scareware, that falsely claims to detect or prevent threats on the computer,” Tim Cranton, Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) associate general counsel, said in a post on the company’s On the Issues Blog.

Other forms of malvertising infect a victim’s computer with malicious software for various purposes, including stealing users’ personal information, or holding the user’s computer for ransom in order to get paid to disinfect the PC.

In Friday’s filing, Microsoft sued five companies: “Soft Solutions,” “Direct Ad,” “,” “ITmeter INC.” and “” The suits name “John Does” as the heads of the companies under investigation.

“Although we don’t yet know the names of the specific individuals behind these acts, we are filing these cases to help uncover the people responsible and prevent them from continuing their exploits,” Cranton’s post said.

The software titan filed the suits in King County Superior Court in Seattle.

In the past year or so, Microsoft has taken an increasingly aggressive stance against spammers, click fraudsters, purveyors of Scareware and, now, malvertisers, in a concerted effort to make the Web a safer place to surf.

“This work is vitally important because online advertising helps keep the Internet up and running … It pays for free online services like Windows Live, Facebook, Yahoo and MSN,” Cranton said in his post.

Beyond filing the suits, Cranton also posted a handful of common-sense tips for keeping Web users safe.

Tips include making sure users have the latest antivirus updates and a firewall as well as anti-malware tools. Additionally, savvy users should be careful of offers of free security and virus scans by companies they don’t know, and to never provide personal information on a Web site unless the user is certain the site is safe.

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