October 24, 2004 in Nation/World

Judge tells man to disable spyware

Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. – A federal judge has ordered a man known as the “Spam King” to disable so-called spyware programs that infiltrate people’s computers, track their Internet use and flood them with pop-up advertising.

U.S. District Judge Joseph DiClerico issued a temporary restraining order Thursday against Stanford Wallace and his companies, SmartBot.net Inc. of Richboro, Pa., and Seismic Entertainment Productions Inc. of Rochester, N.H. SmartBot’s principal place of business is Barrington, N.H.

Prosecutors sought the injunction on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission, which targeted Wallace in its first anti-spyware action.

The judge ordered Wallace to remove software code that exploits security holes in computer operating systems and Web browsers, then tracks people’s Internet use to bombard them with pop-up ads.

Wallace also is accused of trying to sell computer users $30 remedies called “Spy Wiper” and “Spy Deleter” that the FTC says don’t work.

“Spyware” describes a broad category of software that can be installed through unsafe e-mails or Web pages. It sometimes is bundled with other software that consumers download and install, such as file-sharing programs that can be used to download music and movies illegally.

Spyware programs quietly monitor which Web sites a consumer visits, and some may even redirect users to different sites. They can make computers sluggish or cause them to crash.

“We see it as good relief for consumers,” FTC attorney Laura Sullivan said of DiClerico’s order. She could not say how pervasive Wallace’s spyware was.

Wallace’s lawyer, Ralph Jacobs of Philadelphia, said Wallace wants “to use the Internet for advertising in lawful and proper ways.”

“There are a wide range of advertising practices on the Internet that use some of the techniques the FTC objects to, and the defendant looks forward to an opportunity to establish exactly what advertising practices are allowable,” Jacobs said.

Wallace formerly headed a company called Cyber Promotions in the 1990s that sent as many as 30 million junk e-mails daily to consumers, earning him the nicknames “Spamford” and “Spam King.” He left the company after lawsuits by America Online and CompuServe.

The judge scheduled a hearing for Nov. 9.

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