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FTC Files First Anti-Spyware Case

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

12 October 2004

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday filed a case with the New Hampshire District Court seeking to clamp down on the activities of firms that install spyware on the computers of internet users.

In the first case of its kind, the FTC revealed last week that it is seeking a temporary restraining order against Seismic Entertainment Productions, Sanford Wallace, and Smartbot.Net. The three firms stand accused of infecting computers with spyware in order to sell removal tools to the affected internet users.

According to reports on the matter in the US media, the Commission's filing with the District Court seeks to restrain the defendants from publishing or disseminating any type of software or code via the internet, to require them to remove the software designed to exploit web browser vulnerabilities from web sites, and to require them to produce documentation regarding their marketing strategies.

This follows the passing last Tuesday by the House of Representatives of the Spy Act, which prohibits firms from taking control of another computer from an external source, changing an internet user's homepage, or disabling anti-virus software, and allows the FTC to levy fines of up to $3 million for repeat offenders.

The House also last week passed the Internet Spyware Prevention Act, which gives the Department of Justice an additional $10 million to clamp down on spyware firms, and provides for prison sentences of up to two years.

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