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Vulnerabilities / Threats

FTC Reaches Settlement With Keylogger Maker

CyberSpy will be allowed to keep selling product, but not as a covert download

The Federal Trade Commission said today it has put the brakes on an operation that was selling spyware and showing customers how to remotely install it on other people's computers without their knowledge or consent.

The FTC settlement bars CyberSpy, seller of the RemoteSpy keylogger, from advertising that the spyware can be disguised and installed on someone else's computer without the owner's knowledge. It requires that the software notify the user that the program has been downloaded and obtain consent from computer owners before the software can be installed.

In 2008, the FTC filed suit against CyberSpy Software and its owner, Tracer Spence, alleging they were violating the law by advertising and selling RemoteSpy, a keylogger software program that was described as a "100 percent undetectable way to spy on anyone from anywhere."

According to papers filed with the court, the defendants provided their clients with detailed instructions explaining how to disguise the spyware as an innocuous file, such as a photo, attached to an email. When the e-mail recipient clicked on the attachment, the RemoteSpy program was downloaded and installed without the victim's knowledge.

According to the court documents, the spyware recorded every keystroke typed on an infected computer, captured images of the computer screen, obtained passwords, and recorded websites visited. To access the information gathered and organized by the spyware, RemoteSpy clients logged into a website maintained by the defendants.

The settlement bars the defendants from providing purchasers with the means to disguise the product as an innocent file or email attachment. It also requires they inform purchasers that improper use of the software could violate state or federal law.

In addition, the final order requires the defendants to "take measures to reduce the risk that their spyware is misused, encrypt data transmitted over the Internet, police their affiliates to ensure they comply with the order, and remove legacy versions of the software from computers on which it was previously installed."

The order was entered in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

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Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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