A US court has handed a record $US163 million ($A158.5 million) fine to three marketing executives after finding them culprits of a massive scareware operation.
Kristy Ross, Sam Jain and Daniel Sundin — founders of Innovative Marketing — were found by the court (pdf) to have misrepresented virus scans on customers' computers.
The scans purported to find viruses and system errors — even when they didn't exist — which were then used to sell products such as WinFixer, WInAntiVirus and WinAntiVirusPro at prices of between $39.95 to $100.
Wired reported that two of the founders, Jain and Sundin, made up to $1 million a month through the company, selling scareware to gullible customers who believed the pair's sales pitch that their systems had been compromised.
The company as a whole brought in roughly $60 million between 2000 and 2008.
Kirsty Ross, at one time vice-president of business development, was permanently restrained from marketing and selling computer security software, and software that interferes with consumers' computer use.
Some 3000 customers complained about the operation to the Federal Trade Commission, which took legal action against the company in 2008.