'Spyware' Under Attack by Government

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By taking advantage of a hole in Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser, hackers have been able to introduce “spyware” or “adware,” which is downloaded on to hard drives without owners' knowledge. The scourge causes countless “pop-up” ads to appear, driving many users away from their computers. But now, the government is cracking down.

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission last week filed a legal complaint against two companies that allegedly infected computers with spyware and pop-up advertising, then tried to sell their owners spyware-blocking software, IDG News Service reported.

And, last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the SPY ACT (Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass), which outlaws computer technology that downloads programs onto users' computers without their permission. The spyware legislation is not yet law, IDG reported.

The FTC charges the two defendants, Sanford Wallace, owner or president of Seismic Entertainment Products, based in Rochester, New Hampshire, and SmartBot.Net, based in Richboro, Pennsylvania, with using unfair business practices by marketing "purported" antispyware software called Spy Wiper and Spy Deleter to Internet users through pop-up ads on websites controlled by Seismic Entertainment, IDG reported.

Wallace, in a message on his Default-homepage-network.com website, accused the FTC of overstepping its bounds. "We believe the U.S. government is attempting to enforce federal laws that have yet to be enacted," the Web site says. "We feel this is a political move and it is being made at the expense of legal business operations. I am not surprised at all that my companies and I, Sanford Wallace, were picked as the 'poster boy.' I find the timing and target of this action to be extremely convenient and painfully obvious. We deny any wrongdoings and plan to pursue all legal protections, remedies and freedoms."

For its part, Congress is reacting to numerous consumer complaints. "Spyware is a very real problem that is endangering consumers, damaging businesses, and creating millions of dollars of additional costs," Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said after a spyware bill was passed on Thursday, the Washington Post reported.

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