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Spyware Activities Restrained By Court Order

At first sight it is highly improbable that a company like ERG Ventures should be investigated by the FTC for engaging in the distribution of screensavers and suchlike. However, the company has been issued an order by the Commission requiring it to pay back illegal profits. The Nevada-based ERG is alleged to have covertly placed hostile software in a large number of computers after luring customers into accepting free screensavers and video files. Hidden in the downloaded software were programs of which customers were unaware. The FTC says that a US District Court in Nevada has now shut down the operation. Judge Howard McKibben issued a temporary injunction against ERG Ventures LLC and a partner, while the FTC is trying to get a permanent order against the two entities.

According to the FTC, the malicious software did not lend itself to easy removal. It altered home pages, appended hard-to-erase toolbars and advertising icons, introduced unwelcome and often sexually vivid pop-up ads in browsers, monitored Internet actions, lowered the performance of computers, and rendered functionless anti-spyware software.

The security firm Panda says on its website that the malware, installed by Media Motor, requires action on the part of the user to spread on its own. Transmission to the infected computer happens via floppy disks, CD-ROMs, email messages containing attached files, Internet downloads, FTP, IRC channels, peer-to-peer file sharing networks, etc. The FTC charges ERG Ventures and its partner Timothy P. Taylor (using the business name of Team Taylor Made) with violation of the FTC Act through the practice of exploitation and fraud. Court documents reveal that ERG Ventures and Taylor concealed the fact that malware was tied to the free software. It is also alleged that the two used a cheating End User License Agreement (EULA). The agreement seemed to allow for blocking of the program installation. However, the malware was installed irrespective of the option selected.

Related article: Spyware Detection Programs Track Advertisers’ Cookies

» SPAMfighter News - 17-11-2006

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