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Check Point kills scareware-style pop-up campaign

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Check Point has backed down in a row over a controversial scareware-style pop-up message warning to users of its ZoneAlarm personal firewall product, admitting that it got it wrong, and withdrawing the marketing campaign.

The row began after ZoneAlarm users were hit by a warning that their PCs 'may be in danger' from a newly found variant of the infamous ZeuS banking Trojan in a bid to encourage them to upgrade to a paid-for version of the product, with built-in anti-virus defences. In addition, the buy-an-upgrade page cheekily disparaged the ability of competitors (including AVG, Avira and Norton) to handle the threat. The pop-up warning was displayed whether or not the machine was infected with anything - the free version of ZoneAlarm is not even outfitted with an anti-virus scanner.

Critics were quick to slam Check Point, which markets ZoneAlarm, for adopting tactics little different from those of scareware scammers. Meanwhile users howled protests at the pushy marketing tactics on ZoneAlarm forums.

Initially Check Point defended its marketing tactics as educating users about a threat by "proactively alerting users". The statement, issued on Monday, failed to placate criticism prompting Check Point into a u-turn. The security software firm has now promised to stop pushing the pop-up messages after conceding, via an update to the official ZoneAlarm Twitter profile, that it might be taken as a warning that a machine was infected.

After listening to consumer feedback, we realised that it was misinterpreted and have turned the popup message off.

The climb-down cuts a sharp contrast to an earlier unapologetic statement from the security software firm.

"It was never our intent to lead customers to believe they have a virus on their computer," said an initial statement. "This was purely an informative message about a legitimate and serious virus that also included information about the differences in protection of various products, and how to get protection against it." ®

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