Congress Cant Stop Spyware

Opinion: Making spyware illegal may help, but it'll take some new products that can prevent its installation to really protect against it.

WASHINGTON—When the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved the Internet Spyware Prevention Act of 2004 last week, some in Congress predicted that it would solve the problem of spyware thats wreaking havoc on many personal and enterprise computers.

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.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about combating spyware.

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 that the new version will feature central control over spyware detection and removal and that it will have an easy-to-use Web interface.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here for a column on spyware legislation.

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.

/zimages/1/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.


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Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...