Spyware Spreaders Settle Suit

FTC levies restrictions, $1.5 million fine on adware distributor

The Federal Trade Commission has lowered the final boom on an online advertising company for misusing adware and spyware in its business practices.

DirectRevenue LLC, which offers Internet advertising services, faces severe restrictions of its activities and a $1.5 million fine, according to a decision and order issued late last week.

One commissioner dissented from the settlement, saying that the $1.5 million penalty wasn't stiff enough. "The $1.5 million... is a disappointment because it apparently leaves DirectRevenue's owners lining their pockets with more than $20 million from a business model based on deceit," said Commissioner Jon Leibowitz.

DirectRevenue and its officers were charged with distributing adware and spyware to users' computers under false pretenses and without their consent. The company used a wide variety of ploys to get users to download the malware, including a free "atomic clock" program, a security warning, and a spurious pop-up blocker that actually caused the user to get more pop-up ads, according to the FTC.

The company also went to some lengths to prevent users from removing the adware and spyware they had installed, according to the FTC complaint. In one case, DirectRevenue delivered code that would automatically reinstall the adware if a user attempted to remove it.

DirectRevenue was responsible for approximately 150 million installs of spyware and adware, representing billions of pop-up ads for users, the FTC said. Although the commission's orders will severely curtail many of the company's business practices, it is still functioning and there are no criminal charges yet pending against its officers.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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