Google sues scammers that allegedly released a malware-filled Bard knockoff

The defendants were previously served with over 300 takedown requests.

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The hype surrounding emerging technologies like generative AI creates a wild west, of sorts, for bad actors seeking to capitalize on consumer confusion. To that end, Google is suing some scammers who allegedly tricked people into downloading an “unpublished” version of its Bard AI software. Instead of a helpful chatbot, this Bard was reportedly stuffed with malware.

The lawsuit was filed today in California and it alleges that individuals based in Vietnam have been setting up social media pages and running ads encouraging users to download a version of Bard, but this version doesn’t deliver helpful answers on how to cook risotto or whatever. This Bard, once downloaded by some rube, worms its way into the system and steals passwords and social media credentials. The lawsuit notes that these scammers have specifically used Facebook as their preferred distribution method.

Google’s official blog post on the matter notes that it sent over 300 takedown requests before opting for the lawsuit. The suit doesn’t seek financial compensation, but rather an order to stop the alleged fraudsters from setting up similar domains, particularly with US-based domain registrars. The company says that this outcome will “serve as a deterrent and provide a clear mechanism for preventing similar scams in the future.”

The lawsuit goes on to highlight how emerging technologies are ripe for this kind of anti-consumer weaponization. In this case, the alleged scammers said that Bard is a paid service that required a download. In reality, it’s a free web service.