D Squared Solutions has allegedly licensed the software to another San Diego company, Scintillant Inc., which sells the software from the byebyeads.com and endads.com sites. The FTC is considering action against that company as well, though those sites remain up. "Its an unfair practice to [send] advertisements that create a problem and then charge consumers for the solution," said Howard Beales, director of the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We call that extortion, and its not any different in the high-tech world."Most enterprises are protected from the security hole by firewall software. Microsoft has issued a patch for the hole and has changed default settings of Windows so that Messenger Service is turned off. Messenger Service has been included in Windows since Windows 2000. It was originally developed to allow network administrators to send pop-up alerts to users, such as when printing jobs are done before being exploited by pop-up ad spammers. Beales said the FTC will seek restitution on behalf of consumers from D Squared Solutions. "We dont know how much they got, but well find out in the course of the litigation," he said. He said he expected the figure was in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars." Phone and e-mail messages left for Dhingra, Davis, D Squared Solutions and Scintillant were not returned. Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum
Beales recommended that consumers turn off Messenger Service, which he noted "serves no function" for most home users. He also suggested home users install firewall software to protect from pop-up ad intrusions.