Lavasoft News - October 2006

FTC Closes the Book on Spyware Op

The people behind an operation that allegedly installed illegal spyware on computers, which according to federal regulators affected 18 million users worldwide, will have to dig deep in their pockets to settle a complaint filed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

In the fall of 2005, at the FTC's request, the operation had its assets frozen and was ordered to shutdown.

This fall, the commission disclosed that a settlement had been reached, requiring two companies and three individuals to give up just over $2 million of their “ill-gotten gains,” along with a suspended judgment of $8.5 million for alleged violations of the FTC Act.

The settlement is said to be the second biggest ever made by the agency, that has been involved in more than a dozen settlements, totalling around $8 million in the past two years.

The California-based defendants, Enternet Media Inc., Conspy & Co. Inc., Lida Rohbani, Nima Hakimi, and Baback Hakimi, have been distributing software under the names Search Miracle, Miracle Search, EM Toolbar, EliteBar, and Elite Toolbar.

The ruling by the U.S. District Court for Central California permanently prohibits the defendants from interfering with consumer computer use, including distributing software that collects information concerning a consumer’s Internet use and personal information, installing advertising software code, hijacking homepages or browsers, or installing dialers.

The defendants are also prohibited from making “misleading representations” about the performance, features, and cost of any type of software, including misrepresenting that code is an Internet browser upgrade, online security software, music, lyrics, or a cell phone ring tone, the FTC said.

The FTC charges that the defendants caused installation boxes to pop up on users’ computer screens, offering a variety of freeware, or security patches and upgrades to fix supposedly defective browsers. Instead of getting freeware or security upgrades, once consumers downloaded the software, their computers were infected with spyware that interfered with computer use and was difficult to uninstall.

The defendants also allegedly used software code to track consumer Internet activities, change home page settings, insert new toolbars, and manipulate browser windows, the agency said.

Click here to view a PDF of the original FTC complaint.

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Stats
Spyware infections prompted almost one million U.S. households to replace their computers in the first half of 2006.
-Consumer Reports, State of the Net 2006

The total loss from all cases of fraud referred to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2005 was $183.12 million, with an average loss of $424 per complaint. This is up from $68 million in total losses a year earlier.
-FBI IC3

This month's issue of Lavasoft News is being read by... drum roll please... 872,054 people.
Worm Graphic
Term of the Month
WORM - Did you know that WORM is an acronym for "write once, read many"? A computer worm is a self-replicating computer program, similar to a computer virus. Unlike viruses, however, worms self-propagate and so do not require other programs or documents to spread. Worms typically spread through e-mail or other file transmission capabilities found on networked computers.
 
Real Testimonial
Thanks for removing "VirusBurst" on my PC. I tried several ways to get rid of that low-down nag. Spybot had detected it, but wasn't able to kill it. HijackThis removed it - and it was still there. The next day there was an update for Ad-Aware. After this it was that easy!! No spyware, no virus. Good work. I appreciate your reliability.
R. Busch, Berlin, Germany, 25/09/06
 
Adware Trends
A new report by an online security vendor shows that in August 2006, there were roughly 450 "adware families", with more than 4,000 variants.
    Industry experts say that as the amount of new viruses and worms drop off, criminal malware is given room to rise. Spyware, Trojans and phishing are the cyber-crime of choice in 2006.
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