Enigma Software Decides The Best Way To Deal With A Negative Review Is To Sue The Reviewer

from the ungracious,-ESPECIALLY-in-defeat dept

Nothing pushes a negative review of your product out of the public eye faster than a lawsuit, am I right? That's the line of thinking Enigma Software has chosen to entertain. It recently filed a lawsuit against BleepingComputer, alleging that its 2014 "review" (actually a forum post detailing Enigma's SpyHunter history as "rogue" software and the deceptive business practices the company has deployed) is defamatory.

What would seem to be a mixture of opinion and fact-based assumptions (backed by links to other sources) is portrayed by Enigma as a malicious attempt by BleepingComputer to damage its reputation so the site can push readers to affiliate partners and advertisers.

Enigma Software claims in its lawsuit that BleepingComputer has the negative SpyHunter review because it takes part in an affiliate advertising program which grants BleepingComputer a commission for redirecting users to Malwarebyte’s site. The Enigma Software Group claims, “Bleeping not only has unlawfully benefited from its smear campaign to the detriment of ESG, it has damaged the reputation of ESG by refusing to take down its false and misleading statements which have been reposted numerous times on other anti-spyware related forums and websites.”
Other computer security sites have already leapt to BleepingComputer's defense. Malwarebytes has donated $5,000 to the site's legal fees and points out that BleepingComputer is not some fly-by-night operation that solely acts as a funnel to preferred vendors.
The content is provided by the volunteer efforts of security professionals and the more than 700,000 registered users who ask and answer all questions presented on the site. To summarize, Bleeping Computer is a valuable resource in the efforts to help users live in a malware free world.
Over at CSO's Salted Hash, Steve Ragan points out the reputation Enigma claims BleepingComputer is destroying has already been severely damaged by the company's own actions over the years.
[T]he lawsuit says, "Bleeping has a direct financial interest in driving traffic and sales to Malwarebytes and driving traffic and sales away from ESG."

While that claim is true at face value, the affiliate programs used by Bleeping Computer help keep the website online and they use affiliate links for a number of vendors, not just Malwarebytes.

Also, most of the comments that are critical of Enigma Software and SpyHunter exist because the company has gained a bad reputation over the years due to spam, as well as questionable detection rates.
Ragan then runs down Enigma's history, including the high number of refunds it's had to hand out to maintain its A+ BBB rating, as well as the years it spent being blacklisted as a security risk by respected anti-virus firms.

He also notes, as BleepingComputer did in its disputed forum post, that SpyHunter has never been classified as malware or targeted for removal by competing anti-virus products, but that's apparently largely due to Engima's past litigious efforts, rather than Enigma dropping the more questionable "features" of its product -- like automatic renewals, suspicious scan results and its "pay-to-clean" pricing. (The scan is free. The removal requires a six-month subscription, which will be automatically renewed by Enigma in perpetuity unless otherwise instructed.)

The lawsuit is already off on the wrong foot, what with it clearly being filed solely to shut down criticism. While Enigma may find New York's lack of a universal anti-SLAPP statute useful (the current version only protects speech related to the discussion of public permits, and even then, it only protects certain people [bloggers, non-traditional journalists] from SLAPP lawsuits brought by government entities), it's now facing Marc Randazza, who has taken up BleepingComputer's defense.

Adding to this is the fact that the specific statements Enigma claims are false and defamatory aren't even directly quoted from the posted review. They're rephrased to put words in the mouth of the forum moderator who posted it. This low-level deception might have made sense if Enigma hadn't included a screenshot of the post it's misquoting as an exhibit in the filing.

Here are Enigma's claims, followed by the actual wording used by BleepingComputer.
In these posts, Bleeping makes the following assertions falsely and without any reasonable basis to believe that the statements were true when made:

That SpyHunter 4 or ESG engage in "deceptive advertising which violates several consumer protection laws in many states";
[The "quoted" statement does not actually appear in this post, or in any of the ones following it in the thread.]
ES: That SpyHunter 4 or ESG has a "history of employing aggressive and deceptive advertising";
BC: SpyHunter by Enigma Software Group USA, LLC is a program that was previously listed as a rogue product on the Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Products List because of the company's history of employing aggressive and deceptive advertising.
[This claim is backed up by a footnote linking to an outside source that reinforces BC's claim.]
ES: That SpyHunter 4 is a "rogue product";
BC: SpyHunter by Enigma Software Group USA, LLC is a program that was previously listed as a rogue product on the Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Products List…

BC: SpyHunter is not classified as malware or rogue security software and other antivirus and antimalware vendors do not target it for removal.
ES: That SpyHunter 4 or ESG have not cooperated in submitting their program for testing "most likely due to the program's ineffectiveness and high rate of false positives?";
[Again, this "quoted" phrase does not appear in the post, or in any the moderator's posts in the same thread. The moderator notes it has not been tested by other AV firms to determine its effectiveness, but does not make any related claim about false positives or ineffectiveness. The closest thing to it is this sentence, which is clearly an opinion.]
In my opinion SpyHunter is a dubious program with a high rate of false positives.
[This is backed up by a link to supporting information from an outside source.]
ES: That SpyHunter 4 or ESG engage in deceptive pricing;
BC: While there are mixed reviews for SpyHunter, some good and some bad, my main concern is the reports by customers of deceptive pricing, continued demands for payment after requesting a refund, lack of adequate customer support, removal (uninstall) problems and various other issues with their computer as a result of using this product. For example, some users are not aware that when purchasing SpyHunter, they have agreed to a subscription service with an automatic renewal policy.
[Again, these statements are supported by links to information sources. The addition of "my main concern" clearly shows the moderator is making a statement of opinion based on available information. And the connecting phrase "reports by customers" makes it clear he's making an inference based on statements by others.]
ES: That most users of SpyHunter 4 "are not aware that when purchasing SpyHunter, they have agreed to a subscription service with an automatic renewal policy"; and
[See the above quote and note, again, that multiple links in the review direct readers to outside sites backing up this statement, like the numerous complaints about this practice found at ComplaintsBoard and the Better Business Bureau.]
ES: That SpyHunter 4 is "malware" or "rogue security software" despite not being classified as such by security vendors.
BC: SpyHunter by Enigma Software Group USA, LLC is a program that was previously listed as a rogue product…

BC: SpyHunter is not classified as malware or rogue security software and other antivirus and antimalware vendors do not target it for removal.
[These two directly contradict the assertion being made by Enigma in its lawsuit. The author of the post never states that SpyHunter is "malware" or "rogue security software."]

Enigma doesn't have much of a case. But it has just enough of one to be troublesome. It's forced others to bend to its will in the past by aggressively litigating, and it can drain BleepingComputer of time, energy and money just by forcing it to defend itself from ridiculous claims.

Filed Under: anti-slapp, defamation, free speech, reviews, slapp, software, spyhunter
Companies: bleepingcomputer, enigma software


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  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 5 Feb 2016 @ 9:13am

    Not like the old days..

    ... in the old days, if we didn't have a leg to stand on, we just sat down.

    today it seems to be if you don't have a leg to stand on, start digging.

    This seems to be a new specialty that several of our lawyer friends are already experts in...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2016 @ 10:48am

    this looks like they are trying to deliberately mislead the court with known false statements. am i wrong?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Feb 2016 @ 10:52am

    This is like one of those videos where you can see the bad outcome before it happens and think to yourself, why are that still doing it?!

    The "nuanced" reworking of what was actually said vs what they told the court will hopefully lead to a benchslap for the lawyer who filed this and handed the evidence that they were making things up to the court. It is one thing for the defense to submit material challenging the claims, it is wholly another when the plaintiff succinctly destroys their own case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2016 @ 10:59am

    Obviously Lawyer Driven

    The only people who are going to benefit from this are the lawyers who are probably going to be fired after this brings so much more attention to the true statements in the outdated post. Screaming bloody murder when no one else cares usually results in people wondering why this person protests so much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Feb 2016 @ 11:31am

      Re: Obviously Lawyer Driven

      The lawyer gets paid if you win or lose.
      The lawyer is only doing what the client wants...of course filing an obviously frivolous claim can result in bad things happening to the lawyer. But if the deterrents for doing these sorts of things didn't make the lawyer take pause perhaps the downside doesn't go down far enough.

      (but then we know I have little patience for lawyers getting passes for questionable things)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2016 @ 10:59am

    Obviously Lawyer Driven

    The only people who are going to benefit from this are the lawyers who are probably going to be fired after this brings so much more attention to the true statements in the outdated post. Screaming bloody murder when no one else cares usually results in people wondering why this person protests so much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Borked, 5 Feb 2016 @ 11:03am

    Bleeping Computers should sue Enigma for making defamatory statements in is claims against Bleeping Computers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2016 @ 11:08am

    Enigma's dubious history goes way back

    For example, article f7cb1dc0.0406031654.58e4c74d@posting.google.com posted to alt.privacy.spyware on June 3, 2004 reads in part:

    "An attorney for one of those bogus anti-spyware programs (that is nearly as bad as some of the spyware that the legitimate ones remove), Enigma Group (Spyhunter), fired off a cease and desist letter at the owner of the Spyware Warrior blog site for defamation, claiming that the site was publishing false and negative information about his client. To which the blog owner fired back: prove it with specific examples of that. Folks, it isn't defamation/libel/slander etc., if the allegations are true."

    There are many other mentions of Enigma spanning the intervening decade -- far too many to list here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2016 @ 11:21am

    While it's great promo material for Malwarebytes to donate to the defense, $5,000 is enough to get a lawyer to file a response to the initial filing, and not a lot more. Still, that's $5,000 they didn't have before for their defense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 5 Feb 2016 @ 11:30am

      Re:

      Anyone who thinks BleepingComputer is worth defending (or Enigma worth fighting) can also contribute to their defense through gofundme and PayPal links on their home page.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 5 Feb 2016 @ 12:02pm

    Streisand Effect!

    ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2016 @ 1:42pm

    All this and the fact that NO-ONE who has used a PC for more than a couple of years would touch the piece of crap that is spyhunter.

    I remember the popups ads they used to have, the attempted forced installations via intrusive javascript, the lying adverts pretending to be part of windows xp stating an issue was found (tried to look like a grey information box) then if clicked tried to quickly enforce installation without any further user input...etc etc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jim the Bear (profile), 5 Feb 2016 @ 8:53pm

    Enigma Software and SpyHunter; I thought those sounded familiar. Last year they used an abusive copyright claim to remove a video from a malware YouTuber I watch. Best part: Rogueamp explicitly said that it isn't malware in the first 5 seconds of the video and defended it on those grounds.

    Original Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhxVKqGcNhk
    About the Takedown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNhNaz2eE9M

    Enigma has a history of screwing with anyone who dares criticize their terrible program in any way and really deserve to crash and burn. Hopefully this'll be their final mistake.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2016 @ 10:49pm

    Lousy product or paper-thin skin

    Whether it's one or both, any company that can't take criticism of their product without lashing out is not one you should ever use.

    If your product and/or service is solid, then it can take people being critical of it, and if anything you should welcome that, as it allows you to spot where you can improve or fix things.

    If you believe that your company and your choices regarding it are good, then you should be able to take criticism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 6 Feb 2016 @ 4:26am

    When all you've got's a hammer ...

    AKA "lawyer", everything looks like a nail, AKA lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adwokat Łódź, 6 Feb 2016 @ 4:51am

    lawyer

    The lawyer is only doing what the client wants...of course filing an obviously frivolous claim can result in bad things happening to the lawyer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 6 Feb 2016 @ 1:22pm

      Re: lawyer

      ... of course filing an obviously frivolous claim can result in bad things happening to the lawyer.

      I'd hope that's true but I don't know that it is. I believe as long as they forewarn the client that to the best of their knowledge it would be unwinnable and the law's against them, the lawyer's got a pass. As long as the client's willing to foot the bill and the lawyer advises the client what the law says, they can foul up the courts and their victims all they want.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2016 @ 10:23pm

    "The lady doth protest too much, methinks"

    Hamlet III:II

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    IT Support and former attorney, 10 Mar 2016 @ 5:44am

    This lawsuit is weak

    After reading the alleged defamatory review and the complaint, my assessment is - weak lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Fran, 13 Mar 2016 @ 6:32am

    The purpose of this lawsuit is not to win its claim. Its purpose is to have a chilling effect on any venue/website that would allow a negative review of this company. The desired effect here is to stop negative reviews of this company across the web for fear of facing a lawsuit, regardless of its merits.

    Defending against lawsuits, frivolous or otherwise, is expensive and time consuming. The courts are being used more frequently in this fashion by corporations that have the necessary resources to silence critics; they become blunt instruments that threaten would-be defendants with the messy business of a being sued.

    In short, the effect is the same whether this company wins or loses. It's analogous to a mob hit, the effect of which is to send a message more than anything else. Isn't our justice system wonderful?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2016 @ 10:20pm

    ESG will lose.

    No one in BC even said that SpyHunter is malware, just previously thought rouge av.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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