Wash. Sues Spyware Software Scammers

The state of Washington filed its first lawsuit under its new spyware law against New York-based Secure Computer on Wednesday. The action is a result of parallel investigations involving both the state attorney general's office as well as Microsoft.

The suit accuses the company of offering software that falsely claims the user is infected with spyware. From there, it makes changes to the computer to make it even more vulnerable to attacks.

Secure is accused of violating Washington's 2005 Computer Spyware Act as well as the state's Commercial Electronic Mail Act and Consumer Protection Act, as well as the federal CAN-SPAM statute. Microsoft has also filed a similar lawsuit in Washington court accusing the company of violations of the Computer Spyware Act as well.

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The Redmond company is allowed to sue Secure through a provision in the law which allows providers of computer software and owners of Web sites or trademarks adversely affected by spyware activities to sue.?
"Our investigations revealed that Secure Computer, its principals and associates advertised and distributed a product called Spyware Cleaner through spam, pop-up ads and deceptive hyperlinks," Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a statement.

Charged in the attorney general's suit are company president Paul E. Burke, and Gary T. Preston, owner and webmaster of the Secure Computer domain, both of New York. Three others are charged with marketing the software: Zhijian Chen, of Portland, Ore.; Seth Traub, of Portsmouth, N.H., and Manoj Kumar, of Maharashtra, India.

The men marketing the software were paid up to 75 percent of the USD $49.95 fee to download the software as incentives to market it, the attorney general's office claims.

"We applaud Attorney General McKenna for his strong and sustained leadership in helping protect consumers on the Internet," deputy general counsel for Microsoft Nancy Anderson said. "It is encouraging to see our home state of Washington at the forefront of legislation and enforcement on these important consumer protection issues."

So far, Microsoft has collaborated with state attorneys general in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Washington to stop various illegal online activities.

If found guilty, Secure may be forced to pay up to a USD $100,000 fine for violations of the spyware act, USD $250 per violation of the CAN-SPAM act, USD $500 per violation of the state spam act, and USD $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

Washington residents who bought Spyware Cleaner can request a complaint form from the Attorney General's Web site.

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