RealTime IT News

FTC Targets Spyware Operation

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is trying to stop the operations of a New Hampshire company that allegedly includes with its peer-to-peer (P2P) software secret spyware and adware that can't be uninstalled.

According to an FTC lawsuit, Odysseus Marketing and its owner Walter Rines offer free P2P software, known as Kazanon, that claims to make provide anonymous file-swapping services for its users.

The FTC alleges the claim is bogus and, even if true, the activity would be a violation of federal law. The agency charged Odysseus and Rines with unfair and deceptive practices.

Among the chief FTC complaints is that the offer is not free since the software is bundled with a spyware program called Clientman. The FTC says Clientman downloads without a user's permission dozens of other adware and spyware programs, degrading a computer's performance and memory.

"Clientman and the additional programs that it installs interfere with consumers' normal use of the Internet," the lawsuit states. "In some cases, [Odysseus and Rines] induce consumers to download Clientman by including it with software [that makes] false performance, efficacy and benefits claims."

The FTC lawsuit alleges Odysseus and Rines have an obligation to disclose that their "free" software download causes spyware and adware to be installed on consumers' computers. The lawsuit states that the company discloses the downloads but buries the disclosure in the middle of a two-page end user license agreement (EULA).

"The home page of the Kazanon Web site contains no information about the consequences of downloading of Kazanon other than a hyperlink that is labeled 'Terms and Conditions,' which links to Kazanon EULA," states the lawsuit. "The hyperlink is not labeled to convey the nature, relevance or significance of the EULA."

The FTC also said the Odysseus software replaces or reformats search-engine results rigged to place Odysseus' clients first. In addition, according to the FTC, the software generates pop-up ads and sends user information to servers controlled by Odysseus.

The lawsuit also contends the software is difficult to detect and impossible to uninstall using standard software utilities. While Odysseus does offer an uninstall tool, the FTC claims it does not work and, in fact, installs additional software.