N.H. man settles spyware suit with Washington state, pays $2,000

A New Hampshire man who used the Microsoft name in advertisements to trick customers into purchasing ineffective spyware software reached a settlement this week with Washington state.

Seth Traub, the third person to settle under the state’s new Computer Spyware Act, agreed to pay $2,000 in legal costs and attorneys’ fees, according to a statement from the attorney general’s office. The settlement does not include any admission or finding of wrongdoing.

Authorities said Traub advertised Secure Computer’s Spyware Cleaner using Google AdWords, an advertising program.

Traub’s ad was a hyperlink that read "Microsoft Anti-Spyware." The link would show up prominently in search results after users typed in "Microsoft spyware cleaner" or "Microsoft anti-spyware" into the Google search engine, the statement said.

Users who clicked on the link were transported to a Secure Computer website, not Microsoft, the statement said.

Each time a customer purchased the $49.95 product, Traub received 75 percent commission, the statement said. And the product, which promised guaranteed removal of all spyware, was unable to detect most of the malware and left computers vulnerable to attacks.

Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna filed a lawsuit against Secure Computer in January. Gary T. Preston, listed as the owner of the company’s web domains, agreed in May to pay $7,200 in legal costs and attorneys’ fees.

Zhijian Chen of Portland, Ore., charged with advertising Spyware Cleaner through false system warnings on user’s PCs, agreed in April to pay nearly $84,000 in fines and consumer restitution.

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