Feeds

US moves towards anti-spyware law

Civil remedies

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

A US House subcommittee on Thursday (17 May) approved what would be the first federal law to specifically target Internet spyware.

The SPY Act, for "Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass," would oblige companies and individuals to conspicuously warn consumers before giving them a program capable of automatically transmitting information gathered from a user's computer. Though the bill carries no criminal penalties, and doesn't allows users to sue spyware merchants, anyone in the US caught uploading such a program without obtaining the consumer's consent could face civil prosecution by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

A last-minute addition to the SPY Act also prohibit keystroke logging and the display of advertisements that cannot be closed, according to Rep. Mary Bono, the bill's sponsor. "We are one step closer to restoring safety, confidence and control to consumers when using their own computers," Bono said in a statement. The bill now goes to the full Commerce committee for a vote. A companion bill in under consideration in the Senate.

Spyware, and its ignoble cousin adware, appears to be a growing online nuisance. A survey of broadband users released last summer by the National CyberSecurity Alliance found that 91 per cent of broadband consumers had some form of adware or spyware on their computers, and most were not aware of it.

In a report released last week, a free scanning tool provided by Earthlink and Webroot Software detected traces of nearly 73,000 Trojan horse installations and nearly 61,000 covert system monitoring programs in a scan of 420,000 PCs throughout the month of April. The same scans picked up 2.3 million adware programs.

Last week, security researchers found that an anonymous computer criminal was using a combination of unpatched vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Internet Explorer to forcibly install the I-Lookup adware search bar on victim's machines.

Regardless of the size of the spyware problem, support for legislative solution like the SPY Act is not universal. In April, FTC commissioner Orson Swindle argued that the commission is more effective when it's working with industry and educating consumers than enforcing "static legislation." And consumer advocates worry that the SPY Act doesn't do enough to warn users about how their data is going to be used.

"We're concerned that people are going to consent early on, and then the software can collect everything," says Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology. "We'd prefer to set this aside and have a more comprehensive Internet privacy bill."

Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus logo

Related stories

Feds reject anti-spam registry
Google's Gmail: spook heaven?
Utah sees first spyware case
No need for anti-spyware laws - FTC
The average PC: spyware hotel>Spyware found on one in three corporate networks
Closing spyware loopholes
PestScan: free spyware checker (Ad-Aware is much more useful)
Kazaa founders to borrow your PC to distribute content

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.