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Spanish Police Arrest Scareware Developer after Decade-Long Pursue


July 19, 2023

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Spanish Police Arrest Scareware Developer after Decade-Long Pursue

Spanish authorities have detained a Ukrainian malware developer after a 10-year chase.

“Agents of the National Police have arrested a Ukrainian citizen who had a valid INTERPOL Red Notice for being on the run from the United States authorities for more than 10 years,” reads the announcement by the Spanish National Police.

According to the press release, the unnamed fugitive was located and immediately arrested at the Barcelona-El Prat airport when agents learned of his arrival on a flight to visit the Catalonian capital.

The man allegedly committed large-scale fraud against hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting victims worldwide by infecting their computers with scareware.

Scareware is a type of software designed to induce a sense of fear and urgency, typically displaying a message pop-up saying the computer, phone or tablet is infected with a virus.

The pop-up urges the victim to buy a fake antivirus solution. If the victim falls for the scam, the  scareware developer pockets the money.

“The events with which he is charged occurred between 2006 and 2011 when the detainee, along with others involved, committed large-scale fraud against consumers by creating and distributing malicious software known as scareware,” reads the announcement.

“Through this computer code, and with the help of a sophisticated international network of computer servers, it infected the victims' computers and caused pop-up messages to appear on their screens, warning that the terminals were infected with a virus and that they should purchase [an] antivirus for a solution.”

Victims would be charged up to $129 for the fake virus remover, “unaware that they were giving the money to whoever had initially infected their computer,” according to the Spanish police.

It is estimated that the man’s crimes caused upward of $70 million in losses.

The operation was carried out by investigators from the General Information Police Station in coordination with the Provincial Information Brigades of Tenerife and Barcelona and with the El Prat Airport Police Station. The FBI and INTERPOL also supported the operation at the international level.

Bitdefender last year published a comprehensive guide on how to spot scareware scams.

Bitdefender recommends buying antivirus software only from reputable sources. AV vendors will promote awareness around a threat, leaving it to the user to decide which solution works best for them. Reputable vendors will never use scare tactics to frighten consumers into buying a “virus remover.”




Filip has 15 years of experience in technology journalism. In recent years, he has turned his focus to cybersecurity in his role as Information Security Analyst at Bitdefender.

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