'Dumb IE users' report faked, admits scam's architect

But French firm whose corporate identity was stolen not laughing

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Leguide reiterated that denial today, but was unsure what his company would, or even could, do about the identity theft.

"We don't know what we can do," said Leguide, adding that he wasn't sure whether Central Test would seek legal redress or contact local authorities.

Even the motivation of those behind AptiQuant and its IE IQ claims puzzled Leguide. "Maybe it was someone who has something against Microsoft, someone who doesn't like Microsoft," he said.

The AptiQuant blog admitted to lifting content from Central Test, and said it was removing it. "Apologies to Central Test for copying their material," said the blog.

It also claimed that it had created the ruse to "Create awareness about the incompatibilities of IE6 and how it is pulling back innovation."

Microsoft, which has campaigned for the death of the decade-old browser for two years, declined to comment on the hoax or the IE6 angle.

Although corporate identity theft is common -- both in phishing attacks and to promote counterfeit goods -- something like this is very unusual, said Te Smith, the head of marketing for MarkMonitor, a San Francisco-based firm that protects corporate brands and reputations on the Internet.

"We have seen scam artists lift sites wholesale, or take advantage of elements, like logos and photography," said Smith in an interview today.

Most of corporate identity theft is done for e-commerce purposes by sellers of fake products, said Smith. "They take the look and feel of a website to lend an aura of credibility," she said. "Counterfeiters will do anything to line their pockets."

Companies like Central Test do have legal avenues they can pursue when they uncover evidence of identity or brand theft, Smith continued, including suing the perpetrator for copyright or trademark infringement. "At best this is an annoyance [to Central Test], but it could damage its reputation and its bottom line," Smith argued. "They might feel the pain."

Leguide said he didn't think the AptiQuant theft would harm his company's reputation, but acknowledged the seriousness of the situation. "I don't know how we, or any company, could have avoided this kind of identity theft," said Leguide. "Anyone can do something like this to any company."

MarkMonitor's Smith said that her firm does help corporations in similar straits. "We would work with the ISP and the domain registrars to get the site taken down," Smith said.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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