Court slams door on sale of spyware

The Federal Trade Commission today had a US District Court issue a temporary restraining order halting the sale of RemoteSpy keylogger spyware.

According to the FTC's complaint,  RemoteSpy spyware was sold to clients who would then secretly monitor unsuspecting consumers' computers. According to the FTC, the defendants provided RemoteSpy clients with detailed instructions explaining how to disguise the spyware as an innocuous file, such as a photo, attached to an email.

When consumer victims clicked on the disguised file, the keylogger spyware silently installed in the background without the victims' knowledge. This spyware recorded every keystroke typed on the victim's computer (including passwords); captured images of the computer screen; and recorded Web sites visited. To access the information gathered and organized by the spyware, RemoteSpy clients would log into a Web site maintained by the defendants.

According to the FTC complaint, the defendants violated the FTC Act by engaging in the unfair advertising and selling of software that could be deployed remotely by someone other than the owner or authorized user of a computer;  installed without the knowledge and consent of the owner or authorized user; and used to surreptitiously collect and disclose personal information, the FTC stated.

Under the court order, in addition to halting the sale of their RemoteSpy software, the defendants must disconnect from the Internet any of their servers that collect, store, or provide access to information that this software has gathered.

    The FTC is looking to permanently bar the sale of the software and have the defendants to give up their profits.

Earlier this year the FTC won a judgment against a company accused of distributing spyware and adware onto people's computers.  A judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada has ordered Timothy Taylor to give up $4,595.36, the money he made from a scheme that "tricked" consumers into downloading spyware by offering free screensavers and videos on his Web site, the FTC said Monday.

    A recent report from the IDG News Service said some estimates suggest spyware problems in the U.S. are decreasing, but writers of all kinds of malware are prevailing -- partly because of computer user behavior. (If you want to learn more about antispyware products check out the Antispyware Buyer's Guide).

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