The penalties—up to five years in prison for using spyware to further another illegal act such as identity theft—are serious. But some question whether it will do a lot of good.
The act also gives the Department of Justice $10 million to find ways to combat spyware and phishing scams. It does not, however, make phishing illegal.
Not everyone agrees that the new law, if passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president, will have the desired effect. Ed English, CEO of Braintree, Mass.-based InterMute Inc., points to the lack of success of the CAN SPAM Act, which made unsolicited e-mail illegal this year but hasnt reduced the amount of spam clogging the Internet.
According to English, the new law isnt going to help either, which is why hes not worried that it will have an adverse effect on the new product his company has just introduced.
English said his companys new product is designed to detect spyware when it attempts to install itself on a computer and then to prevent the installation. He says the $29.95 product also will scan computers for existing spyware and remove it if its already there.
InterMutes product, SpySubtract PRO, has been around for a year or so, but the new version 2.5 contains a feature called "Venus Spy Trap" that monitors the activities of spyware before it actually entrenches itself.
While SpySubtract with Venus Spy Trap can be used in an enterprise environment, it cannot be centrally managed. English said this will change when the enterprise version ships during the fourth quarter of 2004.
English told eWEEK.com that the new version will feature central control over spyware detection and removal and that it will have an easy-to-use Web interface.
Other spyware removal tools, such as AdAware and Spybot Search and Destroy, will clean spyware and tracking cookies from a Windows computer, but they will not monitor installs for spyware. Because spyware must be installed like any other software, preventing that installation also prevents spyware from entering the system.