More Good News on the Spyware Front
Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission announced its newest spyware settlement, a $2 million judgment against two companies and several individuals accused of surreptitiously installing spyware on users' computers. The judgment named Enternet Media Inc., Conspy & Co. Inc., Lida Rohbani, Nima Hakimi, and Baback (Babak) Hakimi, whose software programs included "Search Miracle," "Miracle Search," "EM Toolbar," "EliteBar," and "Elite Toolbar." The settlement includes a suspended judgment of $8.5 million and requires the defendants to pay slightly over $2 million. The FTC order permanently prohibits the defendants from engaging in numerous spyware-type behaviors, including distributing software that tracks consumers' Internet activity or collects other personal information, changes their preferred homepage or other browser settings, inserts new advertising toolbars into their browsers, or installs other advertising software on their computers. According to the FTC's complaint, the defendants' Web sites caused installation boxes to appear on consumers' computers that offered free music files, ring tones, photographs, wallpaper, song lyrics, and security upgrades or patches. Consumers who agreed to the downloads received spyware that hijacked their Internet browsers instead of the free files that were advertised. The settlement represents yet another step forward for law enforcement's offensive against spyware distributors, and for the broader spyware fight. Enforcement is a necessary deterrent to potential spyware purveyors, and the FTC has been leading the effort. Yesterday's announcement comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed against malicious software distributor Movieland, which is merely the latest in a series of FTC spyware suits (all of which are outlined in our recent spyware enforcement report). We hope this is a sign that the FTC will continue to keep up the good work and that more states' attorneys general will join in the fight to investigate and prosecute distributors of nefarious software.