FTC shuts down major spyware operation

Feds claim Spyware network is among the world's biggest

Steve Malone
14 Nov 2005

The US Federal Trade Commission has shut down the operations of a notorious spyware operation. Acting at the request of the FTC, a District Court has ordered that the company Enternet Media Inc and two of its affiliates cease operation immediately. The defendants are said to have run one of the world's top five biggest spyware networks.

The three California-based companies operated by the defendants particularly targeted blogging sites. They lured users into downloading adware and spyware onto their computers by the promise of free lyric files, browser upgrades, and ring tones.

Among the sites operated by the defendants are www.searchmiracle.com, www.c4tdownload.com, and www.cash4toolbar.com. An Ohio-based affiliate controlled the operation Iwebtunes and ran the www.iwebtunes.com web site

These companies' websites generated so-called 'installation boxes' to pop up on the visitors' screens. For example, the installation boxes offered a variety of 'freeware', including music files, cell phone ring tones, photographs, wallpaper, and song lyrics.

Another typical scam announced that the visitors' Internet browsers were defective, and offered to download free browser upgrades or security patches. Of course, consumers who clicked the download button received nothing of the kind. Instead, their computers were infected with spyware code such as Search Miracle, Miracle Search, EM Toolbar, EliteBar, and Elite Toolbar which regularly crop up as some of the world's most prevalent adware and spyware.

Once installed, the spyware tracked the users Internet behaviour, changed the home page settings, inserted new toolbars into browsers, inserted a large side frame or window onto consumers' browser windows that displayed ads, displayed pop-up ads on consumers' computer screens, even when the browsers were not loaded and generally made a pain of themselves.

The defendants' operations have been suspended pending further hearing with the FTC aiming to seize their assets on conviction.

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