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 www.iwebtunes.com) -- 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.
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