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Spyware Weekly Newsletter > May 20, 2003

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Here from the dialer story at PCMag? Click here


Super DMCA laws under discussion in Tennessee

The Tennessee legislature is holding two separate hearings today (May 20, 2003) to discuss new telecommunications bills that have been dubbed "super DMCA" laws. I've mentioned these "super DMCA" laws before (here and here). Michigan's super DMCA law has made it illegal to use a NAT firewall to protect your network or to encrypt your email so that the addressee is hidden from your ISP.

It sounds ludicrous doesn't it? Too bad it didn't sound ludicrous enough for lawmakers in several states to turn down the campaign contributions from the Hollywood lobbyists who pushed for these new laws. These laws have passed in eight states, and Tennessee might be next. Breaking these outrageous laws will be a Class-D felony with fines ranging from $1,500 to $10,000, per device or software program, per day.

I wish I had received notice of this last week, but unfortunately I only heard about this a couple of days ago. However, there is still time to make your opinion known. If you can be in Nashville today to speak with your senator or representative about these laws, please do so. You can also contact the people at the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network.


Links:

http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/states Super DMCA laws explained
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newsletter/archives/april-2003/2.php April 2 issue on super DMCA laws
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newsletter/archives/april-2003/17.php April 17 issue on super DMCA laws
http://www.tndf.net/ Tennessee Digital Freedom Network
Evidence Terminator

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Evidence Terminator

Everything you do on your computer leaves a trail behind. When you surf to a web site, you leave behind internet cache, address bar history, web site visit history, and cookies. When you open a document, Windows saves the filename into the registry. When you run certain programs, Windows saves a file into a temporary folder, and often doesn't delete it afterward.

Evidence Terminator is made by the authors of Spycop anti-spyware software. It cleans up the trail that Windows leaves behind.

Evidence Terminator optionally cleans:
  • Recycle bins on every drive in your system
  • Internet history logs stored on your hard drive
  • Internet cookies
  • Temporary Internet Files (caches and other media files)
  • Temporary program files
  • Recent documents list
  • Backup files
  • LOG files
  • CD burner software temp files
  • Program temp files not in the system temp folder
  • Those evil index.dat files no matter how many of them you have
  • Overwrites files to help prevent recovery
  • The drop down URL list from IE
  • The run list, find computers list, and recently searched file list
  • And much more

Evidence Terminator is available to SpywareInfo visitors for 20% off for a limited time only

Save $10.00 - for Spywareinfo readers only but purchases must be made before May 28, 2003 to take advantage of this special, time limited offer.

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Please note that this is Evidence Terminator and not Evidence Eliminator, which would never be featured here.


Links:

http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/downloads/spycop/eterminate.php Order now
New.net vs Lavasoft

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"Lavasoft is wrongfully targeting New.net's software through its Ad-aware product and thus causing us both economic and reputational harm," says New.net's president, Dan Sheehy. "Our software is not adware or spyware".

On May 6th, New.net inc. filed a federal lawsuit in the Central District Court of California against Lavasoft and Nicolas Stark Computing AB. New.net is suing for false advertising, unfair competition, trade libel, tortious interference, and seeks declatory relief from the court.

Lavasoft distributes the anti-spyware product Ad-aware, which for the past several months, has been detecting New.net's client software on their users' computers. Originally Ad-aware labeled New.net's software as "data miner", but a subsequent "reference file" update changed that to "misc".

Sheehy says that New.net has made several attempts to discuss the situation with Lavasoft, both publicly and privately, all to no avail. After threatening legal action, Lavasoft provided a list of reasons why the New.net software is targeted by Lavasoft's Ad-aware spyware remover. Sheehy remarked that the reasons given by Lavasoft were both outdated and false.

Lavasoft's targeting of the New.net software has caused quite a headache for many people. Not long after Ad-aware was updated to target the New.net client, the client itself was updated to a new version. Ad-aware, not being updated for this new version, began to break network connectivity whenever it removed the client*.

Accusations still fly about who is at fault for the chaos caused by this incident. Lavasoft and many users of Ad-aware accused New.net of updating their software specifically to create this effect in order to make Ad-aware look bad. New.net vehemently denies this accusation and even accuses Lavasoft of programming Ad-aware to remove their software incorrectly in order to make them look bad*. Lavasoft later released a new build of Ad-aware that fixed the issue.

Lavasoft is far from the only program to detect and optionally remove New.net's software. Aluria Spyware Eliminator*, Spybot S&D, X-Cleaner, and others also target the New.net client software.

Although Mr Sheehy wouldn't come right out and say so, it appears that New.net is on a mission to have its client software removed as a target from all anti-spyware programs. Sheehy would not rule out legal action against other companies that also target his company's software.

"A lawsuit is not an enjoyable process for anyone, so we certainly hope we will not have to resort to legal remedies with other similar companies," Sheehy responded when asked about legal actions against these other companies. "It is not a path we chose lightly, and we would only take similar action after careful consideration and exhaustive exploration of other available options."

Reaction to the lawsuit has been surprisingly muted on the privacy-oriented message boards. Not surprisingly, most people are rooting for Lavasoft. Despite clear disclosure in its installer, people tend to be surprised, then angered, to discover New.net's software installed on their systems. Partners such as Grokster, which do not allow people to opt out of installing New.net's software, do nothing to improve people's opinion of it.

I definitely will be keeping my eye on this one. You can bet that the other anti-spyware companies currently targeting New.net will also be watching.

You can read the entire complaint filed by New.net in PDF form here on my site.


Update

We would like to point out two errors in this article and one issue that is in dispute.

* Ad-aware 6 build 160 had problems with all versions of new.net, not just the new version that was released just after the client software became a target.

* Aluria Spyware Eliminator recently stopped detecting new.net.

SpywareInfo regrets the errors.

* Additionally, New.net's president, Dan Sheehy, maintains that his company is not accusing Lavasoft of deliberately programming Ad-aware to break networks during the removal of their software. Having read the complaint, I would say that this could be interpreted either way.

Please see points 31 and 40 of New.net's complaint:

31. Defendants, falsely target and label the NewDotNet Client as an unauthorized and harmful program, thereby harming New.net's reputation, and prompting users to remove the software (through a flawed method programmed by Defendants) constitutes unfair and fraudulent conduct under California law.

40. Nevertheless, Defendants have intentionally targeted and labeled New.net's product in a false and disparaging manner, and have programmed the Ad-aware product to remove the NewDotNet Client from users computers in a manner that creates a negative user experience, which users wrongfully conclude is caused by New.net, when it was in fact caused by Defendant's Ad-Aware product


Links:

http://www.lavasoft.de/software/adaware/ Ad-aware
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/rd/aluria/ Aluria
http://security.kolla.de/ Spybot
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/downloads/x/ X-Cleaner
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/downloads/ls/newnet-v-lavasoft.pdf New.net complaint, PDF format
Pulling the plug on a dialer company

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Last month, I wrote about dialer programs and how they were infecting the computers of thousands of innocent people. A dialer program will exploit lowered ActiveX browser settings to install itself, disconnect the victim from their ISP, and dial an expensive "pay-per-minute" telephone number. Often the victim has no idea that anything has happened until they receive a telephone bill weeks later with hundreds of dollars worth of charges.

To demonstrate just how easy this is to do, I've put together a page that will run a fake dialer program (courtesy of Javacool software) if your security settings are too lax. As with a real dialer program, this simple test only works with Internet Explorer. If you arrive at the page and either nothing happens or you receive a security warning saying that an ActiveX control is unsafe, you pass. If you receive a security prompt, you pass depending on how you answer it. If Notepad opens with a message for you, you fail. Click here for the test.

In the previous issue, I mentioned one company that appeared to be a major player in the dialer business, New Jersey based Alyon Technologies, and how they were being investigated by the attorneys-general of several states. It is my pleasure to report that in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission, 13 states have filed lawsuits against Alyon. "The way this organization has allegedly been doing business is illegal, irresponsible and an outrageous misuse of Internet technology," said Wisconsin's Attorney-General Peg Lautenschlager.

If you have been a victim of Alyon Technologies and are a citizen of California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, West Virginia, or Wisconsin, you should contact your state's Attorney-General about these lawsuits to see what your rights are.

If you are resident of Pennsylvania, there is even better news for you. Pennsylvania's Attorney-General Mike Fisher has filed an "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance" agreement with Alyon to resolve over 70 accusations of deceptive practices. Alyon will refund all fraudulent billing of Pennsylvania residents that took place in 2002 to 2003. The full amount that Alyon would have to refund is estimated to be more than $14,000.

To be eligible, you must file a complaint and provide documentation that you were falsely billed by Alyon. You must contact the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection before August 13, 2003 by calling 1-800-441-2555 or by filing a complaint online at http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.

Fisher said that Alyon must make "dramatic changes" in its verification process. Alyon must require the pornographic web sites that it does billing for to post clear disclosure regarding access, authorization and rates for their "for pay" services. Alyon is also required to pay $10,000 in civil penalties and $5,000 for the Commonwealth's investigation costs. A detailed list of terms that Alyon must abide by are published at attorneygeneral.gov.

Speak out
We have a thread at the message boards asking people to post about their experiences with fraudulent dialer bills. Scores of people have posted there and the thread itself has been viewed many thousands of times. If you have ever been the victim of a dialer, please take a moment to post your story.

Lawmakers are aware of this scam and are beginning to take action to stop it. It took only 70 complaints for Pennsylvania to take action against Alyon. By telling us about your experience, you may very well goad your own state into taking action against this type of fraud.

After you make your post, please be sure to contact your state's Attorney-General's office about it and point them here. It's time that the people making money from these scams were stopped once and for all. http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/rd/dialers/


Links:

http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newsletter/archives/april-2003/9.php#dialers April 9 Dialer issue
http://www.wilderssecurity.net/ Javacool Software
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/browsertest/ ActiveX dialer test
http://apnews.excite.com/article/20030516/D7R26TDG0.html 13 states sue Alyon
http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/press/release.cfm?p=73CC8B05-7BB9-44CF-ABCD4329DF4CBF9B Pennsylvania fines Alyon
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/rd/dialers/ SWI dialer thread
stopITnow anti-dialer protection

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Of course, there is no reason for you to sit and wait to be victimized by one of these dialers. You may not end up with a deal as nice as what Pennsylvania victims are receiving. Those of you in Pennsylvania are no doubt pleased that you are receiving a refund for the money you were scammed out of, but I'll bet you'd have much rather never have gone through all of this nonsense.

The last time I wrote about dialers, I also wrote about a program called stopITnow that can prevent a dialer program from using your computer's modem even if it does become installed.

stopITnow prevents your computer from dialing toll lines or unknown locations without your knowledge. stopITnow uses innovative technology to monitor the applications on your computer and prevent malicious software from accessing your modem. stopITnow decides who or what can use your modem for outgoing calls, and to which location those calls can be made. stopITnow can stop dialer programs dead in their tracks. It has other features that you can read about on the maker's web site.

Think of stopITnow as insurance. You hope you never need it to kick in, but if you do need it one day and and don't have it, you could be out plenty of money. The price has gone up since the last time I mentioned it. However, the company generously has provided a 40% discount for SpywareInfo readers.

If you decide to purchase this anti-dialer protection, make sure that you use this special purchase page or you'll be paying full price. http://www.stopitnow.com.au/discount/offer.html


Links:

http://www.stopitnow.com.au/ stopITnow web site
http://www.stopitnow.com.au/discount/offer.html Purchase stopITnow for 40% off
Intuit bows to consumer pressure, drops Safecast DRM software

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There has been another important victory for consumers rights. Intuit has dropped Safecast DRM software from its TurboTax product. Intuit quietly bundled the controversial copy protection program from Macrovision in an effort to cut down on piracy. This decision came back to haunt Intuit for a variety of reasons.

Macrovision's Safecast and Safedisc software has long been suspected of being spyware and of making potentially unsafe changes to a person's computer. While it turned out not to be spyware (at least in this particular bundle), Safecast was caught writing license information to a section of the hard drive where it is not safe and is vulnerable to damage. Since that area of the hard drive is not normally used by Windows, any number of disk management programs could simply delete this license information.

Intuit also came under fire for the way they implemented their new copy protection policy and the seemingly hostile attitude towards consumers. This was exacerbated when several tech support persons told people that they would be forced to buy another license if they bought a new computer or hard drive after activating their copy of TurboTax. This was an error on the part of the support personnel, but it fanned the flames of consumer outrage over the entire situation. One California attorney was so outraged that he has filed a lawsuit against Intuit and is seeking class-action status.

Although total sales of TurboTax rose over last year's numbers, Intuit's president and chief executive officer, Steve Bennett, admitted that the boost in sales expected from the copy protection scheme failed to appear. Bennett also admitted that the spectacularly negative response from consumers may have been the reason that sales did not increase by the level expected.

This should be an example to every company that sells any sort of product to the public. You can push us only so far before we begin to push right back. Capitalism is a democracy, and we, the consumers, vote with our wallets. More importantly, the internet gives us the ability to influence millions of other consumers who will also vote with their wallets. Bear that in mind the next time someone floats an idea for a new policy that you know is going to tick us off.


Links:

http://www.privacyandspying.com/privacy-c_dilla.html C Dilla spyware article
http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,3973,881205,00.asp Extremetech discovers Safecast writes to hidden disk sector
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