Malware is being deployed at alarming rates through unknowing online content providers and media and advertising companies. The latest trend is for hackers to pose as media and advertising companies and place online advertising on popular sites. This "malvertising" works by camouflaging malicious code as harmless online advertisements, which then lead to harmful or deceptive content. Commonly, the ads offer rogue security software, or "scareware," which falsely claims to detect or prevent threats on the computer. Increasingly, however, the ads may directly infect a victim’s computer just by visiting the popular site on which the ad appears, placing on it malicious software like Trojans – programs that can damage data, steal personal information or even bring the computer under the hacker's control. Hackers are going to elaborate lengths to pose as legitimate companies, including registering nearly identical domain names and spoofing (or copying) their entire web sites.

The New York Times and Microsoft have been recent well-known victims - and the number grows daily. To combat the threat that this nasty phenomenon poses, Microsoft recently filed five civil lawsuits, which is the first of their kind. The lawsuits allege that individuals using business names such as “Soft Solutions” and “Direct Ad” used ads to distribute malicious software or present deceptive web sites that peddled scareware to unsuspecting Internet users. Microsoft filed the cases to help uncover the people responsible and prevent them from continuing the fraudulent scheme. Below are links to the complaints:

  • Microsoft Corp. and Microsoft Online Inc. v. John Does 1-20, d/b/a DirectAd Solutions: King Co. Superior Court Cause No. 09-2-34024-2 SEA
  • Microsoft Corp. v. John Does 1-20, d/b/a Soft Solutions, Inc. King Co. Superior Court Cause No. 09-2-34021-8 SEA
  • Microsoft Corp. v. John Does 1-20, d/b/a qiweroqw.com: King Co. Superior Court Cause No. 09-2-34020-0 SEA
  • Microsoft Corp. v. John Does 1-20, d/b/a ote2008.info: King Co. Superior Court Cause No. 09-2-34022-6 SEA
  • Microsoft Corp. v. John Does 1-20, d/b/a ITmeter Inc. : King Co. Superior Court Cause No. 09-2-34023-4 SEA