Threat Management

Judge upholds FTC judgment against spyware suspect

A U.S. District Court judge has agreed with the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) request for judgment against an organization accused of packaging difficult-to-remove spyware and adware in screensavers, the agency said Monday.

The federal judge, sitting in Nevada, approved the judgment, which prohibits the defendant, ERG Ventures, its principals and its affiliate, Timothy Taylor, from distributing software that interferes with individuals' computers.

Taylor also is ordered to disclose the functionality of future software to consumers and allow them to cancel if they download something they do not want to keep. In addition, Taylor must forefeit $4,595 in ill-gotten gains.

The FTC alleged in October 2006 that ERG hid Media Motor, a program known to slow PC use, among screensavers and video files. The malware had been downloaded onto 15 million computers, according to the agency.

In a September 2007 settlement, ERG agreed to pay $330,000 as part of a settlement with the FTC.

Media Motor was found to change end-users' homepages and browser settings, track browsing and disable anti-virus and anti-spyware software, the FTC said.  ERG and its principals were alleged to have failed to disclose that their free software was bundled with malware, as well as to have used a deceptive end-user license agreement.

Microsoft also had filed a lawsuit against ERG under the Washington Computer Spyware Act and Consumer Protection Act.

Neither Taylor nor a representative from ERG could be reached for comment.

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