FTC Closes Spyware company

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It is always good news when the government can close down a spyware company.

The reason that I am so against these spyware companies so much is that as a computer support specialist I always see people accidentally get spyware that gives up their personal information as well as usually slowing down their computer radically.

The change nowadays is that there are no features given for this hit on privacy and performance. There used to be a day when at least you would get cute cursors or a search toolbar in exchange for your personal information but now you get nothing for it.

An operation that placed spyware on consumers’ computers in violation of federal laws will give up more than $2 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges.

Under a stipulated final judgment and order, the defendants are permanently prohibited from interfering with a consumer’s computer use, including but not limited to distributing software code that tracks consumers’ Internet activity or collects other personal information, changes their preferred homepage or other browser settings, inserts new advertising toolbars or other frames onto their browsers, installs dialer programs, inserts advertising hyperlinks into third-party Web pages, or installs other advertising software code, file, or content on consumers’ computers.

The defendants also are permanently prohibited from making misleading representations regarding the performance, benefits, features, cost, or nature or effect of any type of software code, file, or content, including misrepresenting that the code is an Internet browser upgrade or other computer security software, music, song, lyric, or cell phone ring tone.

The order names Enternet Media Inc., Conspy & Co. Inc., Lida Rohbani, Nima Hakimi, and Baback (Babak) Hakimi, all based in California, whose software codes were Search Miracle, Miracle Search, EM Toolbar, EliteBar, and Elite Toolbar.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the Web sites of the defendants and their affiliates caused installation boxes to pop up on consumers’ computer screens. In one variation of the scheme, the boxes offered a variety of freeware, including music files, cell phone ring tones, photographs, wallpaper, and song lyrics. In another, the boxes warned that consumers’ Internet browsers were defective, and offered free browser upgrades or security patches. Consumers who downloaded the supposed freeware or security upgrades did not receive what they were promised; instead, their computers were infected with spyware that interferes with the functioning of the computer and is difficult for consumers to uninstall or remove.

The agency’s complaint also alleges that the defendants’ software code tracks consumers’ Internet activity, changes their home page settings, inserts new toolbars onto their browsers, inserts a large side frameor window onto browser windows that in turn displays ads, and displays pop-up ads, even when consumers’ Internet browsers are not activated.

At the FTC’s request, a federal judge froze the operation’s assets last fall and ordered it shut down. The settlement requires the defendants to give up $2.045 million of their ill-gotten gains and includes a suspended judgment of $8.5 million for alleged violations of the FTC Act. The Commission vote to approve the settlement was 5-0.

The FTC’s case was brought with the assistance of the Microsoft Corporation, Webroot Software, Inc., and Google Incorporated.

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