RealTime IT News

House Panel Supports I-SPY Act

Spyware vendors are targeted with tougher criminal penalties under legislation approved by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee this week. The bill also authorizes $10 million for the Department of Justice to fight spyware and phishing scams.

The Internet Spyware (I-SPY) Prevention Act of 2005 is one of two major anti-spyware measures pending in the House. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act (SPY Act) in April.

Unlike the SPY Act, the I-SPY legislation doesn't focus on what is or is not spyware. Instead, it imposes prison terms for intentionally accessing a computer without authorization for the purpose of planting unwanted software.

"The I-SPY Prevention Act is unique because it focuses on behavior, not technology, and it targets the worst forms of spyware without unduly burdening technological innovation," bill co-sponsor Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

The SPY Act, on the other hand, requires that consumers receive a "clear and conspicuous" notice prior to the downloading of software. The bill contains a number of exceptions to the download disclosure requirement.

Both bills are awaiting a full floor vote by the House. Last year, the House approved legislation similar to the I-SPY and SPY Acts, but both measures failed in the Senate.

"I am encouraged by the passage of this legislation through the Judiciary Committee," Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Vir.), another co-sponsor, said. "The I-SPY Prevention Act is a targeted approach that protects consumers by imposing stiff penalties on the truly bad actors, while protecting the ability of legitimate companies to develop new and exciting products and services online for consumers."

Under the I-SPY bill, using unauthorized access to a computer to further another criminal offense is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to five years. If the access is used to transmit personal information for the purposes of fraud or damaging a computer, the prison terms can range up to two years.

"Spyware makes spam look like child's play and is one of the key reasons why we have an identity theft epidemic in this country," Lofgren said. "I believe that this legislation will help stem the spyware tide and contribute to a solution that protects businesses and consumers without slowing innovation."