'Prized' app developers banned from distributing malware in FTC settlement

The Federal Trade Commission banned app developers Equiliv Investments and Ryan Ramminger from distributing malware after their "Prized" app commandeered consumer devices to mine digital currency.
The Federal Trade Commission banned app developers Equiliv Investments and Ryan Ramminger from distributing malware after their "Prized" app commandeered consumer devices to mine digital currency.

Developers of the smartphone app "Prized" will be permanently banned from creating and distributing malware in accordance with a settlement reached with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New Jersey Attorney General.

“Hijacking consumers' mobile devices with malware to mine virtual currency isn't just deplorable; it's also illegal,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a release. “These scammers are now prohibited from trying such a scheme again.”

Equiliv Investments and Ryan Ramminger were accused of luring consumers into downloading the “rewards” app, which they said was malware-free, but in reality was aimed at loading malware onto consumer phones in an effort to mine virtual currencies. The app was made available in the Google Play Store as well as the Amazon App Store, among others, and was downloaded by thousands of consumers who thought they would get points for playing games or downloading other apps. The points, they believed, could be spent on clothes, gift cards and other rewards.

Instead, they got malware that seized control of the device to mine for DogeCoin and other virtual currency.

“Consumers downloaded this app thinking that at the very worst it would not be as useful or entertaining as advertised,” Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in the release. “Instead, the app allegedly turned out to be a Trojan horse for intrusive, invasive malware that was potentially damaging to expensive smartphones and other mobile devices.”       

In addition to the ban, the defendants must pay a $50,000 monetary judgment to the state of New Jersey, though $44,800 of that is suspended once they pay $5,200 and are in compliance with the stipulated court order.

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