Sundin had already written some firewall software called Computershield. It wasn’t as effective as mainstream antivirus programs, but it didn’t have to be; the genius would be in the sales pitch. After rebranding it WinAntiVirus, IMI began buying pop-up ads that blared fake alerts about problems on users’ hard drives—for example, “You have 284 severe system threats.” These ads prompted customers to download a free trial or pay $39.95 and up for IMI’s subpar software. Once installed, the trial versions pumped yet more ads into the user’s web browser, pestering people to shell out the full price. It was a deeply ironic scheme: Jain and Sundin planned to exploit consumer fears of viruses in order to spread what was, in effect, another virus—and the victims would pay for the privilege.
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