It's become an all-too-common scam: A legitimate Web site pops up a window that looks just like a real security warning. It says there's something wrong with the computer, and click here to fix it. A few clicks later, the victim is paying out US$40 for some bogus software, called rogue antivirus.
Rogue antivirus scams have become a big problem in recent months, but according to Trend Micro CEO Eva Chen, it's part of a more sinister, strategic attack on the antivirus industry in general. Criminals "can fake any other application. Why do they fake AV?" she asks.
According to her, a lot of today's security problems are designed not only to steal information from victims, but to undermine the credibility of companies like Trend Micro itself.
One way hackers have done this is by changing the way their software is put together each time they attack, forcing the AV vendors to bloat up their products with hundreds of thousands of new detection signatures.
In response, Trend Micro was one of the first companies to push reputation-based technology into its antivirus products, developing its Smart Protection Network to identify and block not just viruses themselves, but also the malicious Web sites that are used to distribute malware.
Since 2004 Chen has served as CEO of the company she co-founded in 1988. She dropped by IDG News Service offices in San Francisco this week to answer a few questions. The following is an edited transcript of her interview.
IDG News Service: Microsoft has done a good job of making Windows more secure, but are Windows users better off today than they were five years ago?
Eva Chen: If Microsoft thinks it's secure enough, why do they bother to come up with Microsoft Security Essentials for a free download on the side? With so much social engineered malware it actually has nothing to do with whether Windows itself is secure or not. It's the user's behaviour. Plus there are so many applications -- either the browser or other applications' vulnerability, not just Windows.