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24 November 2006, 09:46

Further success in the fight against spyware distributors

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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has responsibility for consumer protection, has notched up further successes in its fight against companies which attempt to install spyware on innocent internet users' computers with fraudulent intent. Following punishments meted out to Zango Inc. and ERG Ventures LLC in early and mid-November, two further companies have now been forced to cease distributing spyware programs and to pay fines, according to an FTC press release. A total of nine spyware distributors have now been closed down since 2004.

The FTC brought an action against both Odysseus Marketing Inc. and its principal Walter Rines in October 2005. The company had distributed the program "Kazanon", which claimed to allow users to engage in anonymous peer to peer file sharing, but which silently gathered personal information such as user names, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and surfing patterns and, unknown to the user, passed them on to Odysseus. The company sold the contents of its database on to other businesses. In order to distribute the spyware, Rines apparently exploited bugs in Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Rines will, however, only have to pay 10,000 US dollars of the original 1.75 million dollar fine - the company has since gone bust.

It's a similar story for John Robert Martinson, who, in collaboration with "Spam King" Sanford Wallace, slipped surfers a program, which, similar to the hoax program coke.exe, opens the CD-ROM tray. To further put the wind up users, the program also popped up a "FINAL WARNING" message - and a reference to supposed anti-spyware software from Martinson (Spy Wiper and Spy Deleter), which, for a payment of 30 dollars could apparently remove the danger. Based on Martinson's inability to pay, only 40,000 dollars of the 1.86 million dollar fine will be enforced.


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