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.

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