Washington gets $1m settlement in first spyware case

Washington's attorney general has settled with Secure Computer for $1 million in a spyware lawsuit.

Washington's attorney general has settled the first case prosecuted under the state's 2005 Computer Spyware Act.

The settlement announced Monday is with antispyware vendor Secure Computer. The White Plains, New York, software company was accused of marketing its product via deceptive spam and pop-up ads, which offered free spyware scans that always detected a problem with the computer that was scanned.

The company and its president, Paul Burke, will pay US$725,000 in legal fees and US$200,000 in penalties, and will reimburse Washington state customers US$75,000, said Paula Selis, senior council with the attorney general's office. "Given the scope of the defendants' practices and the amount of consumer harm out there, we feel this is a very fair settlement."

More than 1,100 state residents purchased the company's Spyware Cleaner software since it went on the market in 2004, Selis said. Those customers will now be e-mailed by Secure Computer and offered a refund for the US$49.95 product, under terms of the settlement.

Secure Computer, which admits no wrongdoing in the matter, is also prohibited from using deceptive marketing techniques to promote its software, and the company must now review the advertising of its marketing affiliates to make sure they comply with the settlement.

That seems like an unlikely possibility, however, because Spyware Cleaner was pulled from the market shortly after the lawsuits were filed in late January, and Secure Computer is now out of business, according to the company's Web site. Representatives from Secure Computer could not be reached for comment.

Secure Computer and four of its business partners were sued by Microsoft and the Washington attorney general in January, but charges against three of the men have already been settled. A fourth man, Manoj Kumar of Maharashtra, India, could not be located the attorney general's office said.

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