Lavasoft News - January 2007

Spyware Ops - A Year in Review

Spyware, malware, and online threats are growing at threateningly rapid rates. But a look back at the legal action taken this past year shows that it is not all unchecked criminal progress, as scores of operations were brought down in million dollar settlements.

The beginning of December marked the conclusion of Washington, USA's first case prosecuted under the state's 2005 Computer Spyware Act. The $1 million settlement with rogue anti-spyware vendor Secure Computer LLC., prohibits the company from using deceptive marketing techniques to promote its software.

Secure Computer was accused of marketing its product with misleading spam and pop-up ads that offered free spyware scans that would falsely detect infections on user's computers.

After filing the Secure Computer case, the Washington attorney general's office has settled anti-spyware suits against three other spyware programs: Spyware Slayer, QuikShield Security and's InternetShield and Registry Cleaner software.

While Washington is only the third U.S. state to file a spyware suit, trailing suits by New York and Texas in 2005, fourteen other states have passed anti-spyware legislation.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been doing its part to protect consumers from spyware by continuing to challenge unfair and deceptive cyber operations.

The agency has pursued and shut down nine spyware distributors since 2004, according to Tara Flynn, assistant director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection.

November 2006 proved to be an active month in stopping alleged spyware purveyors.

At the start of the month, the FTC released the news that Zango Inc. was slapped with a $3 million dollar judgment, and the condition that the company must have user consent before installing software onto computers.

Shortly after, in mid November, ERG Ventures, LLC, the alleged distributor of the Trojan Media Motor program, was shut down by a U.S. district court following charges by the FTC.

The end of the month brought an FTC announcement that two more alleged spyware operations had been axed.

One settlement was reached with Odysseus Marketing Inc., charged in October 2005 with illegally downloading spyware onto consumers' computers, and then allegedly selling the stolen data. The company agreed to surrender $1.75 million in ill-gotten gains, with all but $10,000 suspended due to inability to pay.

The second settlement involved John Robert Martinson, principal of Spy Deleter, who was charged with unfairly selling anti-spyware software, in cooperation with Sanford "Spam King" "Spamford" Wallace. Martinson has been banned from further spyware practices, and was ordered a fine of $1.86 million, with all but $40,000 suspended because he was unable to pay.

As for Wallace, whose nicknames were earned in the '90's after his company, Cyber Promotions, invaded millions of consumers' PC's with spam e-mails, the FTC ordered a default judgment against him in May, forcing him to give up $4.1 million.

This past September, the FTC announced a hefty $2 million settlement with two companies and three individuals (Enternet Media Inc., Conspy & Co. Inc., Lida Rohbani, Nima Hakimi, and Baback Hakimi) that had been distributing alleged spyware software under the names Search Miracle, Miracle Search, EM Toolbar, EliteBar, and Elite Toolbar.

Other major spyware settlements in 2006, requiring the defendants give up almost $2 million in ill-gotten gains, include Spyware Assassin and Trustsoft, both charged with deceiving users with rogue anti-spyware programs.

To see a complete list of the FTC's spyware enforcement actions, click here.


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Spam Stats
1971 The first e-mail was sent by the computer engineer Ray Tomlinson
50 billion Number of e-mails sent every day
45 billion Number of e-mails from spammers
$50 billion The cost in lost productivity and expenses to fight spam in 2006
Source: The Times Online

Term of the Month
Internet lore claims the term spam gets its name from the well-known Monty Python sketch set in a café where every dish comes with the tinned-meat product Spam! A spam e-mail message is defined as being both unsolicited and bulk.

Forum Spam
Lavasoft's forums administrator CalamityJane deals with spam on a daily basis. She actually bans about 100 spammers per month. "Our forums do employ prevention measures such as requiring e-mail validation of new members and the CAPTCHA security routine, plus we have ban filters in place to minimize the amount of spam posts in the forums. It continues to be a problem and users need to be aware of precautions they should take when encountering forum spam posts (do not click on links or attachments). Report any spam to a Forums Administrator," she says.

Read more about Forum Spam at Wikipedia and take advantage of CalamityJane's expertise in the Lavasoft Support Forums today.

Tech Tips
If you have received e-mails that are just filled with gibberish, but do not require you to click on anything, they are designed to get you to mark them as spam and confuse your Bayesian spam filter (uses statistical methods to classify messages as spam). It may be wise to use your web mail account to delete all junk mail before opening up Outlook or Outlook Express.

Letter to the Editor
This is the first newsletter (December Lavasoft News) that I have received from you and it's very informative. Thanks for all of the new info.
There's so much out there that you don't know who to believe. You seem to put it in some order.

Maryann Garrett
Rison, Arkansas, USA

Lavasoft AB
Lilla Bommen 1
411 04 Gothenburg

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