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AV scareware most costly threat in 2010 says McAfee

McAfee warns of scareware risks to end users as its launched Consumer Threat Alert service

The Consumer Threat Alert program is free for all users.
The Consumer Threat Alert program is free for all users.

Fake anti-virus scareware is claiming one million victims every day, is likely to be the costliest online scam of 2010, according to McAfee.

The company says that fake security alerts, which prompt users to run ‘free' scanning software or even buy fake antivirus applications, which turn out to be malware that steals personal information, is set to be the biggest threat of the year in monetary terms, with McAfee recording a 660% rise in scareware over the past two years, and a 400% increase in the last year.

Worldwide, scammers could be making as much as $300 million per year from scareware.

"It's an incredibly lucrative business for cybercriminals. In fact, one company known as ‘Innovative Marketing' made an estimated $180 million through these scams in one year, and more than four million consumers purchased their fake security software thinking it was real," said security researcher Francois Paget of McAfee Labs.

The scareware warning came as the first alert from McAfee's new Consumer Threat Alert program, a free service which aims to raise awareness of security issues among end users.

Subscribers to the service will receive periodic email updates on the latest threats, along with tips on how to avoid becoming a victim, and what to do if they think they have been hit by an attack.

The program also includes a Consumer Threat Alert blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

"Even the savviest of computer users fall victim to online threats because cybercriminals have become so sophisticated. The Consumer Threat Alerts are a warning sound to keep consumers from falling victim to online dangers. We're on the front lines watching and protecting against threats, and we pass that knowledge onto consumers," said Jeff Green, senior vice president of McAfee Labs.

"We're giving consumers the ‘street smarts' they need to live their online lives safely. With education and the right technology, we can all play a part in the fight against cybercrime," he added.

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