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FTC Says It Has Shut Down Spyware Ring

The Federal Trade Commission said today its enforcement division had obtained a court order freezing the assets of a group of online outfits it says is responsible for spreading spyware through a network of Web sites and blogs peddling cell phone ringtones, photographs and music lyrics.

According to the FTC, one of the defendants --- Nicholas C. Albert, doing business out of Ohio as Iwebtunes and -- helped spread the malicious software by offering blogs free background music. The FTC said music code downloaded by the blogs was bundled with a program that flashed warnings to consumers who visited the blog sites about the security of their computer systems.

I find interesting that they may have used blogs to spread their junk programs. If so, they could be some of the same people contributing to the surge in spam blogs "or splogs" being created at the rate of about 40,000 per week.

The commission said consumers who opted to upgrade by clicking got a piece of code downloaded to their machines that took advantage of weak security settings in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser to install a variety of not-very-nice "toolbars" and other spyware to their machines, including such wonderful products as "Search Miracle," "Miracle Search," "EM Toolbar," "EliteBar," and "Elite Toolbar."

The agency's complaint alleges that "the defendants' software code tracks consumers' Internet comings and goings; changes consumers' preferred home page settings; inserts new toolbars onto consumers' browsers; inserts a large side "frame"or "window" onto consumers' browser windows that in turn displays ads; and displays pop-up ads on consumers' computer screens, even when consumers' Internet browsers are not activated.

"In addition, the agency alleges that once the spyware is loaded on consumers' computers, it interferes with the functioning of the computer and is difficult for consumers to uninstall or remove."

Hats off to the FTC. For what it's worth, Security Fix has warned readers about these types of sites before, especially the lyrics pages, which almost always try to download stuff to your machine.

By Brian Krebs  |  November 10, 2005; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  Fraud  
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Thanks for the information. I installed the Google Toolbar on Internet Explorer and it was often taken over by an "Elite Bar" which implanted itself deep in my system and was not completely removed by my anti-virus or anti-spyware programs. Now I run Firefox and have not had a problem. I think though that there may be a problem with the Google Toolbar although they refuse to address the issue so I won't reinstall it.

Posted by: Sterling Doughty | November 10, 2005 1:53 PM | Report abuse

If you want to find more tips on deleting spyware on your computer goto or for blog search

Posted by: extreme one | November 10, 2005 2:42 PM | Report abuse

This is the first I have heard about your site. You should be commended for warning folks about lyrics pages, etc. I ran across one once, helping my niece look up some lyrics. Spent the next few weeks trying to understand why my browser and file manager took so long to run. I eventually found all the culprits and removed them from my registry. Traced their origin back to a lyrics page.

Posted by: analog | November 10, 2005 2:45 PM | Report abuse

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