Lavasoft News - April 2007

Politicians Vow to Get Anti-Spyware Bill Passed

The so-called Spy Act (Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass) overwhelmingly passed in the House in 2004 and 2005, but died in the Senate both times. The latest effort, which features a revised, more hard-hitting bill, is headed by Representatives Edolphus Towns and Mary Bono. The two politicians tabled the bill to the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee focused on consumer protection issues in mid-March.

The new Spy Act imposes strict regulations on what types of actions software is allowed to perform. It would be against the law to "take control" of a user's computer, to collect personal data through keystroke loggers, and to modify one's Internet settings. The bill would also prohibit the gathering of information about a user or his/her behavior without consent. There would, however, be certain exemptions like Web cookies.

Bono, one of the author's of the Spy Act, told CNET she "didn't really have a problem with cookies...because anyone with a slight degree of sophistication on the Internet knows how to delete the cookies. That's not hard to do."

A trade group representing online advertisers has a problem with the part of the bill prohibiting information collection without prior permission from the user. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) testified against the bill in a Congressional hearing, calling the exemption to cookies "too narrow."

"The bill could prohibit certain types of advertising technologies, including cookies or Java scripts of the future," said Mike Zaneis, IAB's VP for Public Policy.

The Federal Trade Commission, which has brought several spyware enforcement cases to court, has in the past complained of the inability to levy large fines on spyware creators. In the re-written Spy Act, the FTC could seek fines as high as $3 million U.S.

Another spyware bill, one that calls on penalties of up to five years in prison and major fines, has also been tabled in an attempt to curb spyware activities.

I-Spy, or the Internet Spyware Prevention Act, is very different from the Spy Act in that it does not define illicit software; it would make it illegal to copy computer code on a machine without authorization if it revealed personal information about a user or put the PC's security at risk.

Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Bob Goodlatte reintroduced I-Spy in March, which actually passed the House on a 395-1 vote back in May 2005, but also died in the Senate weeks later.

In a statement, Lofgren said the bill would protect Americans from Internet crime without disturbing software development.

"Spyware has become a plague for computer users, and Congress must address the mounting negative impact that it is having on our economy. Americans should not be afraid to use the Internet," said Lofgren.

The bills are now in the hands of the U.S. Senate. The question is, will this time be a charm or three strikes and they're out?

What are your thoughts on anti-spyware legislation? Will it deter future spyware authors? Weigh in at editor@lavasoft.com.

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Net Stats
The world generated 161 billion gigabytes of data in 2006, according to a new study by technology research firm IDC. That is 3 million times the information in all the books EVER written. Or picture this - 12 stacks of books that each reach from the Earth to the sun. That is a good chunk of photos, videos, e-mail, web pages, instant messages, phone calls, and other digital data.
Source: IDC, AP
Polymorphism
Term of the Month
Polymorphism is a term often used today to describe 'morphing' malware. The spyware application uses a rudimentary form of polymorphism to randomize files, names and registry keys so each infected PC contains a slightly different version of the program. Read the 'computer science' definition of polymorphism at Wikipedia.
Tech Tips
If you cannot save attached files to your PC, your e-mail client may be configured to stop you from opening file attachments of a certain size or type. This is set for security reasons. If you are using Outlook Express, open the Tools menu and select Options. Click the Security tab, deselect the Do Not Allow Attachments To Be Saved Or Opened That Could Potentially Be A Virus option, and click OK. Be sure to scan the saved file for malware before opening it!
Ballot Box Poll Results
Here are the results from our latest Lavasoft.com Ballot Box poll:
How well do you read EULA's (End User License Agreements)?
I read in detail :789
I scan the text :2593
I accept without reading :5772
Go to Lavasoft.com and take our latest poll: Do you know what pharming is?
Helpful Homepage
There are countless rogue/suspect anti-spyware products and websites out there trying to fool PC users today. Lavasoft News found a great webpage listing a good number of these, including screenshots. Educate yourself at Spyware Warrior!
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