Microsoft is stepping up the fight against online criminals by launching legal action against up to five advertisers which it claims is responsible for inserting advertisements which include malicious code on websites.

Microsoft has launched law suits against five unnamed individuals who they say have been attacking websites by placing ads designed to harm their customers.

The advertisements typically contain code that is designed to exploit loopholes in Microsoft products, typically the Windows operating system and the company’s Internet Explorer browser. This allows hackers to then obtain control of a user’s PC, usually for the purposes of distributing spam. Other ads have been known to direct users to sites containing malicious software, such as fake antivirus software.

The individuals concerned are anonymous names connected with businesses including Direct Ad, ITmeter INC,, and Soft Solutions.

Tim Cranton, associate general counsel with Microsoft, wrote in a blog post: “Microsoft works vigilantly, using both technology and the law, to fight illegal activity that undermines people’s trust in the Internet and online services.

“Today’s filings build on other recent actions we’ve taken against click fraud and instant messaging spam”, he added.

The software giant also advised consumers to take steps to protect themselves from malicious attacks by updating their antivirus software and by adopting a more cautious approach when divulging personal details to unknown sites.

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