Thursday, April 06, 2006

New York State Sues Spyware Maker

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has filed suit against Direct Revenue. In the suit, the Attorney General is asking the Court to stop Direct Revenue from installing any more software and to stop software that is already installed from showing ads. In addition, the State is asking Direct Revenue to provide accounting of the money it has made. Official notice on the New York Attorney General's website is here.

Aurora is the most common name of the program that was installed on people's computers. The Aurora program was installed without notice or consent by 3rd party vendors. Once installed, many pop up ads appear selling anything from online gambling to adult oriented sites. Since having more installations means more money, many affiliates used any means they could to get Direct Revenue's program onto as many computers as possible. No notice was given when the program was bundled with other software. If notice was given, it was buried in a long license agreement that most people wouldn't notice. Direct Revenue was aware of these shady practices. Not only did they allow it, they attempted to silence critics. According to Eric Howes, Director of Malware Research at Sunbelt Software, there was even a case of Direct Revenue hiring a private investigator to intimidate one critic.

Also of interest is the fact that DR execs obsessively monitored anti-spyware web sites, organizations, and companies for any sign of criticism and were not shy about issuing legal threats and, in one case, hiring a private investigator to bully critics into silence.
This is not the first lawsuit against Direct Revenue. Last year, a class action lawsuit was filed in Chicago against them as well. A settlement was reached last month with Direct Revenue. Some of the settlement conditions include providing a 1-800 number where people can get uninstall instructions, clearly marking any promotions as advertisements, destroying any personal information collected, and refraining from collecting any personal information such as Social Security numbers in the future. Most importantly, the company will ensure that people are clearly agreeing to any software installs from them.

Between these two legal actions, at least one spyware vendor appears to be on the way out. If Direct Revenue wants to continue their online business, then they will have to change their methods of installing their software.