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Fake antivirus programs now offer online support

Tech support convinces victims rogue software is legit

In an effort to boost sales, sellers of a fake antivirus product known as Live PC Care are offering their victims live technical support.

According to researchers at Symantec, once users have installed the program, they see a screen, falsely informing them that their PC is infected with several types of malware. That's typical of this type of program. What's unusual, however, is the fact that the free trial version of Live PC Care includes a big yellow 'online support' button.

Clicking on the button connects the victim with an agent, who will answer questions about the product via instant message.

Symantec says the agent is no automated script, but in fact a live person. This lends an "air of legitimacy" to the program, said Marc Fossi, a manager of development with Symantec Security Response. "Obviously if they've got live tech support, it must be real," he joked.

The tech support doesn't help much, though. According to Symantec, the support staff simply try to convince victims to shell out between $30 and $100 for the product.

This isn't the first time a fake security product has been spotted offering tech support. Another company called Innovative Marketing operated a call centre to support its security products, including a program called WinFixer. According to security experts, Innovative Marketing's tech support technicians acted in the same way as Live PC Care's, trying to reassure victims that they were buying a legitimate product.

These so-called rogue antivirus products can sometimes lower security settings on a victim's computer. At best, they offer a false sense of security because the products never protect computers from the latest security threats.

Rogue antivirus has been a major headache for users over the past year. It is often installed via annoying pop-up ads that try to convince the victim that something is wrong with their PC. Symantec tracked 43 million rogue AV installation attempts between July 2008 and July 2009.

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