2008
03.06

Electronic Privacy Information Center    EPIC.org

This document from EPIC.org corroborates that I am not the only one who realizes the scope of the situation. 
It clearly explains that the victim has a difficult time getting the assistance
of law enforcement, it neglects to indicate however that the courts additionally
dismiss ‘claims’ of this kind. The programs can greatly hinder your abilities to
even get a fair trial. 

For clarification, it is the situation that is crazy, not the victim

But it is far too easy to dismiss the victim, and have him committed, and have him avoided so as not to reveal any clues to the truth, and have him jailed, ….  (It’s not over, but I offer to anyone reading that I have suffered quite enough as a result of this misuse, and the irresponsible response of the software company.)

 


 

 

Before the
Federal Trade Commission

 

Washington, DC 20580

 

 
In the Matter of
Awarenesstech.com,
 
 
 
 

 

 

RemotePCSpy.com,

Covert-Spy.com,

RemoteSpy.com, and

Spy-guide.net.

—————————————————–

Complaint, Request for Investigation, Injunction, and Other Relief

I. Introduction

1. This complaint details practices within the amateur spyware industry which cause
consumer harm and are unfair and deceptive trade practices. Amateur spyware
technologies are surveillance products sold to individual consumers to spy on other
individuals. Amateur spyware technologies are variously promoted as being capable of
spying on email and instant message exchanges; recording websites visited; capturing
passwords and logins; browsing of local filesystems; capturing screenshots; and
capturing all keystrokes typed. Some of these features are available in real-time.

2. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has identified several practices
that constitute unfair or deceptive trade practices in the marketing of amateur spyware.
Several purveyors of amateur spyware technologies promote illegal surveillance
practices. See 18 U.S.C. § 2510 et seq. Secondly, purveyors of spyware technology
promote practices that violate computer crimes laws, such as the ability to “remotely
deploy” the software using a form of a Trojan horse attack. See 18 U.S.C. § 1030.
Finally, the several purveyors of amateur spyware technologies fail to warn users of the
dangers of improper use of their services.

3. These practices harm the purchasers of the product, who are exposed to criminal
and civil liability. They further harm the victims of this surveillance. The victims face
privacy violations; are exposed to identity theft; are placed in physical danger; may not
find help from law enforcement authorities; and may not find adequate compensation via
the civil legal system.

4. In this complaint EPIC details the practices of a select few US-based operators in
the market. Internet searches reveal many other participants in this market. EPIC
believes many operators are tied together in affiliate relationships, as some of these
operators offer similarly named products and affiliate marketing opportunities.1

5. EPIC requests that the Commission investigate the companies named herein,
determine the extent of threat to consumer privacy and safety, seek appropriate
injunctive and compensatory relief, and further investigate other operators and practices
in this market.

II. Parties

6. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is a not for profit research
center based in Washington DC. Founded in 1994, EPIC focuses on the protection of
privacy and the First Amendment. Among its other activities, EPIC first brought the
Commission’s attention to the privacy risks of online advertising.2 EPIC also initiated
the complaint to the FTC regarding Microsoft Passport.3 The Commission subsequently
required Microsoft to implement a comprehensive information security program for
Passport and similar services.4

7. Awareness Technologies sells the “webwatcher” software via its website at
http://www.awarenesstech.com. They list their address as 4640 Admiralty Way, Suite
1140, Los Angeles, CA 90292.5 Their domain name is registered to a proxy
DomainsByProxy.com, 15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353, Scottsdale, AZ
85260. Their IP address is 72.32.135.176, and belongs to Rackspace.com, 9725
Datapoint Dr. Suite 100, San Antonio TX, 78229.

8. RemotePCSpy.com sells the “RealtimeSpy” software via its website at
http://www.remotepcspy.com. The domain name is registered to Stephen Morrow, 438
32nd st, NW, Canton OH, 44709. The website is hosted at the IP address
216.246.48.197. That IP address is owned by Server Central Network, 209 W. Jackson
Blvd, Suite 700, Chicago, IL 60606.

9. Covert-Spy.com sells the “RemoteSpy” software via its website at
http://www.covert-spy.com. The domain name is registered to Total Innovations, Inc.,
PO Box 279, Jensen Beach, FL 34958-0279. The website is hosted at IP address
216.117.138.187, which is owned by Advanced Internet Technologies, Inc., 421
Mainden Ln, Fayetville, NC 28301.

10. RemoteSpy.com sells the “RemoteSpy” software via its website at
http://www.remotespy.com. According to their website, remotespy.com is a division of
CyberSpy Software LLC.6 The domain name is registered to Cyberspy Software, LLC,
1512 E. Jefferson St, Orlando FL 32801. The website is hosted at IP address
69.20.16.139, which is owned by Rackspace.com 9725 Datapoint Dr., Suite 100, San
Antonio, TX 78229.

11. Spy-guide.net sells several personal surveillance products from its website at
http://www.spy-guide.net. The domain name is registered to Gifts for Geeks, 680 Spout
Spring Rd., Lawrenceburg, TN 38464. The website is hosted at the IP address
209.51.155.186, which is owned by Global Net Access, LLC, 1100 White st, SW,
Atlanta, GA 30310.

III. Statement of Facts

12. The following facts are the result of EPIC investigation of the complained
companies. We describe the companies’ representation of their products, including
suggested uses and technical abilities. We note three main practices: the promotion of
illegal surveillance targets; the promotion of Trojan horse email attacks; and the failure
to adequately warn consumers of the dangers of using these products.

Awareness Technologies

13. Awareness Technologies markets the “Webwatcher” software via their website at
awarenesstech.com. The marketing promotes illegal surveillance and fails to adequately
warn consumers of the dangers of misusing the product.

14. The webwatcher software is, in headline form, touted as being able to “Record
everything that happens on any computer and see it online from anywhere.”7 This
company repeats the statement on several of its webpages.8 We include below a
screenshot from their homepage:9

15. The ability of the software to “steal passwords,” as well as its characterization as
“spy software,” is described under the headline “CONSUMER.” Awareness
Technologies states that:

WebWatcher’s computer monitoring software redefines computer spy software.
Read emails, monitor IMs, take screenshots, monitor or block web sites, and even
steal passwords: WebWatcher is spy software that can help you do it all.10

A screenshot is reproduced below:11

16. Under “RELATIONSHIPS,” Awareness Technologies states that its product is
capable of secretly obtaining information on “loved ones”:

The decision to learn the truth about a loved one who may be straying can be a
tough one. Once you’ve made the choice to see if they may be cheating, having
WebWatcher in your corner can make all the difference.12

A screenshot is reproduced below:13

17. Awareness Technologies describes several other functions of the product on its
website. In the section devoted to “consumers,” Awareness Technologies claims it can
“get the truth about anyone” [emphasis added].14 A screenshot demonstrates the other
abilities:15

18. Nowhere on the awarenesstech.com website did EPIC find a disclaimer that
warned users of the legal consequences of illegal surveillance.

RemotePCSpy.com

19. RemotePCSpy markets the “industry leading remote spy software” known as
RealtimeSpy.16 RemotePCSpy promotes illegal surveillance targets; advertises Trojan
horse attacks as a legitimate means of installation; and fails to adequately warn users of
the dangers of illegally using the product.

20. RemotePCSpy states that Realtime Spy is suitable for accessing any personal
computer:

Combined with remote install and remote viewing of activity logs right from our
website, you now have the power to monitor ANY PC from ANYWHERE in the
world!17

21. Clicking on a link entitled “Learn More” takes the user to a further description of
the product. RemotePCSpy claims that the product can be remotely installed, that this
feature makes it the “perfect remote spy software.”:

You can even remotely install the software on a PC you do not have physical
access to. This combined with its remote viewing of activity logs via our website
makes it the perfect remote spy software on the market today.18

A screenshot is provided below, scaled to fit this paper:19

22. The spying victim is not made aware of this surveillance, and is fooled by the
“remote install” Trojan horse feature into installing the surveillance. The “remote install”
Trojan, and the experience of the surveillance victim, are described by the
RemotePCSpy website:20

Advanced Stealth and Cloaking

Realtime-Spy runs in COMPLETE STEALTH and cloaks itself
to hide from
the remote user! The file you send to the remote user is able to be discarded and
deleted – without affecting Realtime-Spy’s monitoring process! Realtime-Spy is
also invisible in the Windows task manager on all Windows platforms!

. . . .

Email Deployment

simply send your configured Realtime-Spy module to the remote PC. The user
only has to run the attached file – they do not have to respond or send you any
response to start monitoring – and they will not know they are being monitored!
(optional splash notice available for non-stealth remote installs)

23. At the bottom of the RemotePCSpy homepage, there is a link to a “User
Agreement.” Leaving the homepage, one arrives at the User Agreement. The User
Agreement includes text that contradicts and limits the more prominent claims of the
software’s ability to spy on any remote PC without the user’s knowledge:21

1. Before choosing RealtimeSpy you must first acknowledge and agree to the fact
that you are the owner of the remote PC you wish to install the software on.
It is a
federal and state offense to install monitoring/surveillance software on a PC of
which you do not own.
(emphasis added)

2. If you are NOT the owner of the computer you want to monitor you must have
the expressed consent of the owner of that computer to install RealtimeSpy on it.

Covert-Spy

24. Covert-Spy sells the “RemoteSpy” software via its website at http://www.covertspy.
com. Covert-Spy engages in all three of the practices EPIC has identified: The
promotion of illegal surveillance targets; the promotion of “remote install” via a Trojan
horse attack; and the failure to adequately warn consumers of the risks of using this
software illegally.

25. The RemoteSpy software is touted, via a banner, as being “100% undetectable.”22 Just below that is promoted the ability to “SPY ON ANYONE. FROM ANYWHERE”23

A screenshot is provided:24

26. Covert-spy follows up this ability to “spy on anyone” with further statements
describing possible targets for surveillance, including a “spouse” or a “friend.”

Do you need to find out what someone is doing online? Is your spouse, child, or
friend hiding secrets from you? If so Remote-Spy is the perfect solution for
anyone that needs this information quickly and secretly. Now you can use the
same software professionals use to find out the information you need in total
privacy.25

Covert-Spy provides a list of potential targets to “secretly record,” including “husband”,
“wife”, “friend”, “lover” and “anyone else.”26 A screenshot is provided:

27. The “remote deployment” is achieved by creating an email Trojan horse which
secretly installs on the victim’s machine:

Remotely Deployable – The most notable feature about Remote-Spy – it can be
sent remotely via email secretly. Once the Remote-Spy file (you create) is
executed on a computer, it will continuously record log data on the computer you
are monitoring.27

The remote Trojan is created by the following a “wizard” provided by the RemoteSpy
software:

.EXE Module Creation – Configure your deployable Remote-Spy module easily
by using the quick module configuration wizard given to you upon ordering.28

The experience of the victim of the Trojan horse is described in the “Frequently Asked
Questions” portion of the website:

[Question]: What happens when a user clicks on the monitoring .exe?

Remote-Spy is completely stealth and designed to install without warning. Once the
executable is clicked the monitoring application will be started instantly. There are no
signs or warnings whatsoever.29

28. No statements were found on Covert-spy.com’s website that served to limit,
qualify, or warn about the surveillance of other individuals or the use of the “remote
deploy” Trojan horse attack.

Remotespy.com

29. RemoteSpy.com sells the “Remote Spy” software.30 Remotespy.com promotes
illegal surveillance targets; promotes the use of a Trojan horse email attack; and fails to
adequately warn users of the dangers of using this software.

30. Remotespy.com advertises that it is capable of spying on “anyone,” “secretly and
covertly” and “without the need of physical access.”31 A screenshot is provided:32

31. Clicking on “features” sends one to a page with more information concerning the
features and ability of the software. RemoteSpy describes the ability to “remotely
install”, to “deploy with one click via email” and to monitor “ANY PC.”33 A screenshot
is provided:

32. The “remote install” is accomplished by facilitating the purchaser’s creation of a
Trojan horse email. This is then sent to the victim who unknowingly executes it. The
process is described on the remotespy.com page:34

* Remotely Deployable – The most notable feature about RemoteSpy – it can be
sent remotely via email secretly. Once the RemoteSpy file (you create) is
executed on a computer, it will continuously record log data on the computer you
are monitoring secretly. You can login anytime to your RemoteSpy account to
view the recorded data in real-time!

The victim of the spyware is not made aware of the surveillance. Their experience is
described in an FAQ:35

[Question]: What happens when a user clicks on the monitoring .exe?

RemoteSpy is completely stealth and designed to install without warning. Once
the executable is clicked the monitoring application will be started instantly.
There are no signs or warnings whatsoever.

33. Navigating several clicks to the end of the tutorial provides a legal disclaimer.
From the homepage, clicking “support,”36 then “Online User Tutorial,”37 past the first
page of the tutorial,38 RemoteSpy presents a “final end user notice” at the bottom of the
second page of the tutorial.39 This notice begins by warning that the recipient of the
Trojan horse email must execute the attachment for monitoring to work.40 The notice
further mentions that some users may block executables from their emails, and advises
that this be avoided by placing the file in an MS-WORD document or zip compression.41
After these technical work-arounds to the victim’s filtering are presented, remotespy.com
delivers its legal disclaimer:

Legal Notice: The execution of RemoteSpy on a computer you do not have rights
of ownership too is illegal. Sending the application to a PC to maliciously record
data without the owners consent is illegal.
RemoteSpy will not take responsibility
for actions taken after your purchase. You must abide by all state and federal laws
while using the RemoteSpy monitoring software.42 (emphasis added)

Spy-Guide.net

34. Spy-guide.net advertises several amateur spyware products on its website.43 The
home page touts the “iSpyNow Remote Computer Monitoring Software.” The software
includes a “remote install” Trojan horse, and no messages disclaim or warn consumers
of the dangers of illegal uses.

35. Spy-Guide promotes the ability of iSpyNow to record the activity of other users
besides the installer on a given machine:

Always Running! – iSpyNOW will startup with EVERY Windows user in active
mode, so you will never have blackout monitoring sessions!44

Those who are not otherwise aware of the installation on the machine are not made aware
by the program’s operation:

Undetectable! – iSpyNOW keylogger software uses the latest in stealth recording
technology – no one will know it is running!45

However, given the “remote install” feature, it may be the case that none of the actual
users of the machine are aware of its presence.

36. iSpyNow includes a “remote deployment” feature. The Spy-Guide website
explains:46

E-Mail Deployment – Simply send iSpyNOW keylogger software as an email
attachment to the workstation or PC you wish to monitor remotely in real time,
and the program will install immediately! iSpyNOW keylogger software is the
only program capable of doing this!

This description implies that the iSpyNow software installs without any activity from the
users of the target computer.

37. Nowhere in the spy-guide.net website are users warned of laws or regulations
protecting the privacy of computer users, or the legal risks one faces when monitoring
others without their knowledge or consent.

IV. Legal Analysis

38. These providers of amateur spyware are engaging in unfair and deceptive trade
practices. Several amateur spyware providers promote illegitimate surveillance activity.
This harms the purchaser who is exposed to civil and criminal liability. This also harms
the target of the surveillance because their privacy is violated. Secondly, several
providers of amateur spyware also promote Trojan horse email attacks that facilitate the
spyer’s ability to target another individual, and thus increases the likelihood of harm to
the victim. Finally, several amateur spyware providers fail to adequately warn the public
of the risks of using their products.

The FTC’s Unfairness and Deception Authority

39. The FTC Act declares unlawful unfair or deceptive acts or practices, and
empowers the FTC to enforce this prohibition.47 These powers are described in FTC
Policy Statements on Deception and Unfairness, respectively.

40. A trade practice is unfair if it “causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to
consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers themselves and not
outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.”48

41. The injury must be “substantial.”49 Typically, this involves monetary harm, but
may also include “unwarranted health and safety risks.”50 Emotional harm and other
“more subjective types of harm” generally do not make a practice unfair.51 Secondly, the
injury “must not be outweighed by any offsetting consumer or competitive benefits that
the sales practice also produces.”52 Thus the FTC will not find a practice unfair “unless
it is injurious in its net effects.”53 Finally, “the injury must be one which consumers
could not reasonably have avoided.”54 This factor is an effort to ensure that consumerdecision
making still governs the market by limiting the FTC to act in situations where
seller behavior “unreasonably creates or takes advantage of an obstacle to the free
exercise of consumer decisionmaking.”55 Sellers may not withhold from consumers
important price or performance information, engage in coercion, or unduly influence
highly susceptible classes of consumers.56

42. The FTC will also look at “whether the conduct violates public policy as it has
been established by statute, common law, industry practice, or otherwise.”57 Public
policy is used to “test the validity and strength of the evidence of consumer injury, or,
less often, it may be cited for a dispositive legislative or judicial determination that such
injury is present.”58

43. The FTC will make a finding of deception if there has been a “representation,
omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer acting reasonably in the
circumstances, to the consumer’s detriment.”59

44. First, there must be a representation, omission, or practice that is likely to mislead
the consumer.60 The relevant inquiry for this factor is not whether the act or practice
actually mislead the consumer, but rather whether it is likely to mislead.61 Second, the
act or practice must be considered from the perspective of the reasonable consumer.62 “The test is whether the consumer’s interpretation or reaction is reasonable.”63 The FTC
will look at the totality of the act or practice and ask questions such as: “how clear is the
representation? how conspicuous is any qualifying information? how important is the
omitted information? do other sources for the omitted information exist? how familiar is
the public with the product or service?”64

45. Finally, the representation, omission, or practice must be material.65 Essentially,
the information must be important to consumers. The relevant question is whether
consumers would have chosen another product if the deception had not occurred.66 Express claims will be presumed material. Materiality is presumed for claims and
omissions involving “health, safety, or other areas with which the reasonable consumer
would be concerned.”67

46. The FTC has used its unfairness and deception authority to prosecute spyware
purveyors. A recent report outlined 11 different cases brought by the FTC as of October
2007.68 None of the FTC prosecutions have addressed amateur spyware and the specific
harms it causes. The Department of Justice has instituted criminal prosecutions for
amateur spyware.69 The harms of amateur spyware are within the scope of the
unfairness and deception authority, and its purveyors should face FTC action for their
unfair and deceptive trade practices.

The Harm of Amateur Spyware

47. The harm from amateur spyware is experienced first by the deployer of the
spyware, who is exposed to legal risks by using the software as advertised. The harm is
further experienced by the victim of the surveillance. Their privacy is invaded, and this
harm is sometimes quantified by statutory remedies. These invasions are often the
advertised purpose of amateur spyware. Further, amateur spyware is used in domestic
violence and stalking in keeping with representations that the software can “spy on your
spouse.” Amateur spyware is also used for identity theft.

48. Several federal laws regulate the use and marketing of electronic surveillance
software. Federal law prohibits the interception of, and disclosure of illegally intercepted
electronic communications.70 Federal law also prohibits the unauthorized access to
stored communications.71 The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act prohibits the
unauthorized access to a protected computer in a way that obtains information.72 The
manufacture, distribution, possession, and advertising of electronic interception devices
is also prohibited.73

49. The existence of civil remedies may not rectify the damages experienced by
surveillance victims. Both users and victims may face high litigation costs. Technology
experts begin in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, and it is hard to know the full cost at the
onset.74 Victims may not be able to satisfy judgments and be made whole if these
judgments exceed the ability of the intruder to pay.

50. Users and distributors of amateur spyware have been criminally prosecuted.
While the purchaser faces the risk of criminal prosecution, the victims may not see final
justice because law enforcement may not have the resources to pursue criminal charges.
In either situation, there has been a harm. The creator and several customers of the
“LoverSpy” software were indicted for federal crimes in 2005.75 The Loverspy operation
had many elements in common with current amateur surveillance software:
Loverspy was a computer program designed and marketed by Mr. Perez for
people to use to spy on others. Prospective purchasers, after paying $89 through a
web site in Texas, were electronically redirected to Perez’s computers in San
Diego, where the “members” area of Loverspy was located. Purchasers would
then select from a menu an electronic greeting card to send to up to five different
victims or email addresses. The purchaser would draft an email sending the card
and use a true or fake email address for the sender. Unbeknownst to the victims,
once the email greeting card was opened, Loverspy secretly installed itself on
their computer. From that point on, all activities on the computer, including
emails sent and received, web sites visited, and passwords entered were
intercepted, collected and sent to the purchaser directly or through Mr. Perez’s
computers in San Diego. Loverspy also gave the purchaser the ability remotely to
control the victim’s computer, including accessing, changing and deleting files,
and turning on web-enabled cameras connected to the victim computers.76

51. Two men in Austin were charged under Texas law for installing spyware on the
computers of their victims.77 One was sentenced to four years for spying on his
estranged wife with the “SpyRecon” software.78 Another case is pending against a man
that installed the “Eblaster” software on his ex-girlfriend’s computer, and used the
information gained to access her online dating and other accounts.79 SpectorSoft, the
makers of “Eblaster” have stopped advertising its software for spying on a spouse.80

52. Several of the advertisements tout behaviors which rank as medium and high risk
factors identified by the Anti-Spyware Coalition.81 The factors are “behaviors that have
potential for user harm and disruption.”82 Factors present in amateur spyware include:

• Installation without user’s explicit permission or knowledge.

• Incomplete or inaccurate identifying information.

• Obfuscation with tools that make it difficult to identify.

• Sending communications including email without user permission or knowledge.

• Transmission of personally identifiable data.

• Collection and local storage personal information.

• Intercepts communications, such as email and IM conversations.

• Hiding files, processes, program windows or other information from the user.

• Allowing remote users to alter or access the system.

• Allowing for remote control of the application, beyond self-update.

• Self healing behavior that defends against removal or changes to its components.

Under the Anti-Spyware Coalition Risk Model, these risk factors are mitigated by
consent factors.83 High levels of consent mitigate high risk behavior. Amateur spyware
advertising often promotes that the surveilled person will experience a lack of these
features. A few of these missing consent factors are shown:

• High level of consent before installation, such as registration, activation, or
purchase.

• Clear explicit setup experience that users can cancel.

• User opt-out and opt-in of potentially unwanted behaviors.

• Indications of activity, including minor ones such as tray icons and major ones
such as an application window or dialog box.

53. Amateur spyware is used in domestic violence and stalking. The harm perpetrated
via consumer spyware is not limited to the privacy invasions protected by electronic
communications laws. News accounts tell of abusers easily finding and using amateur
spyware as part of their abuse:

It’s not hard to figure out. Do-it-yourself manuals are widely available online.
Some sites advertise otherwise legitimate programs for stalking uses. For
instance, spyware was developed commercially to help parents keep tabs on their
children’s Web use and to provide information for advertisers. Now it is
commonly advertised on Web sites as a way to snoop on a spouse. “Monitor any
PC from anywhere!” one ad promises. “Spy stealthily so that the user won’t know
such monitoring exists,” another says.84

The article quotes a lawyer describing the pervasiveness of the problem:

“This happens more frequently than people realize. . . . It’s like a virus,” said
Mehagen McRae, a Fairfax lawyer who said she worked on a spate of such cases
in 2005 and 2006. “I tell my clients to act as if the entire world is reading their emails
and that if they feel as if they are being watched, they are probably right.”85

Domestic violence experts have noticed that amateur spyware is taking on an increasing
role in abuse:

“We are seeing an increase of GPS devices and installing spyware on victims’
computers,” [Cindy] Southworth, [director of technology for the National
Network to End Domestic Violence] said. “Our recommendation to victims is for
them to trust their instincts. Don’t use a computer at home if you think your
abusive partner is monitoring your actions.”86

Victims are forced to take precautions, and are limited in the sources of safety they can
find:

The group [National Network to End Domestic Violence] gets many calls from
women who say their abusers “know too much. We advise women, if you’re
researching an escape plan or trying to find a new job, don’t do it on your home
PC.”87

The danger comes not only from the presence of the amateur spyware, but also from
user’s efforts to rid themselves of it:

Even making seemingly common sense moves such as searching for spyware and
erasing it from a home computer can trigger an escalation in violence, advocates
say. Such a move could also destroy evidence necessary to bring a criminal
prosecution or to obtain a civil protection order.88

The Commission has recognized the consumer harm from such a loss of control.
Assistant Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Tara Flynn states that
“[c]onsumers must have control of the software installed on their computers.”89

54. Amateur spyware is used by identity thieves to capture personal information used
in accessing online accounts. A Philadelphia couple used the amateur spyware Spector
to access account information on their neighbors.90 Their fraud was estimated to have
cost $100,000 in the year 2007 alone.91

55. Though prosecutions have occurred, it can be difficult to get law enforcement
help in the case of amateur spyware:

“When a victim presents herself to law enforcement, it doesn’t necessarily look
that dangerous,” says Sandy Bromley, an attorney with the Stalking Resource
Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington, D.C.

“Individual incidents alone usually would not be criminal, but when you add them
together in a pattern of following, calling and using technology to track a victim,
it becomes a type of behavior that is designed to induce fear. And it works.”92

56. Previous FTC findings on the harms of spyware are applicable to the amateur
spyware industry. In its staff report on an FTC Spyware workshop, the staff concludes:

• Spyware, especially keystroke loggers, can create substantial privacy risks.

• Spyware can assert control over computers, and use that control to create
security risks and cause other harms.

• Spyware often is more difficult to uninstall than other types of software.93

57. Participants in the workshop also pointed to other harms of spyware which are
potentially applicable to the amateur spyware market. Removal of spyware can impose
a substantial cost on consumers and business, including even the formatting of hard
drives, subsequent data loss, and reinstallation of operating systems.94 Spyware imposes
costs on computer manufacturers and ISPs who must respond to technical support
calls.95 Spyware programs can interfere with security tools.96 Spyware programs can
increase security risks — allowing remote access to the machine in a poor manner may
make it easy for hackers to access the machine.97 Participants also discussed the
difficulties that law enforcement has in prosecuting spyware.98

58. These harms are clearly against public policy. As described above, Federal and
State criminal laws regulate the interception of electronic communications and
unauthorized access to computers.99 Federal and state laws are also concerned with
identity theft. The President has created a national identity theft task force.100 The task
force has issued strategic plan for combating identity theft.101 Stalking, domestic
violence and intimate partner abuse are also the targets of evolving state and federal
policy.102 Over the years this policy has increasingly included the protection of the
privacy of stalking and domestic violence survivors.103

59. FTC Chair Deborah Platt Majoras has summarized the FTC’s view of the
consumer harms of spyware:

Spyware also is a major focus of FTC law enforcement activities to protect
consumer privacy in an online environment. Spyware may cause a full range of
consumer injury, from keystroke logger software that tracks all of a consumer’s
online activity, causing a significant risk of identity theft, to adware that forces a
consumer to receive a substantial number of unwanted pop-up ads. The FTC has
focused significant resources addressing spyware, bringing ten law enforcement
actions during the past two years against spyware distributors. These actions have
reaffirmed three key principles. First, a consumer’s computer belongs to him or
her, not the software distributor. Second, buried disclosures about software and its
effects are not adequate, just as they have never been adequate in traditional areas
of commerce. And third, if a distributor puts an unwanted program on a
consumer’s computer, he or she must be able to uninstall or disable it.104

In the context of pretexting, the Commission has recognized the danger of abusive
spouses having access to the personal information of their victims:

The dangers from pretexting are grave; in one of our cases, Commission staff
obtained evidence that in some circumstances, defendants sold such records to
abusive spouses who were subject to court orders of protection and who had
threatened consumers with physical harm.105

Purveyors’ Unfair and Deceptive Practices

60. The practice of promoting illegal surveillance targets is unfair because these
claims cause a substantial harm, not outweighed by any countervailing benefits, which
consumers cannot reasonably avoid. Several of the websites make claims about spying
on “anyone” or “any computer.” These claims clearly include illegal surveillance targets.
Other websites tell of surveillance of a “spouse” or “loved one.” These claims also
include illegal surveillance targets, as shown by the legal actions for intrafamily
surveillance. These advertisements are likely to cause illegal surveillance, and thus
likely to cause the harms described above in ¶¶ 47 et seq. The promotion of illegal
surveillance practices has few if any countervailing benefits. Consumers may benefit
from the fact that the simple advertising promoting spying on “anyone” is easy to
understand. This benefit can easily be achieved by simple marketing that does not
include illegitimate surveillance targets. The victims of surveillance cannot reasonably
avoid this harm, as they are not made aware of the surveillance by the operation of the
product.

61. The promotion of illegal surveillance practices is also deceptive. Purchasers are
likely to believe they are purchasing software that can be legitimately used for the
purposes advertised. The advertised purposes include spying on “anyone” and a
“spouse.” These representations are material. Express claims are presumed to be
material.106 Claims are material if they concern safety or the concerns of a reasonable
consumer.107 The exposure to potential criminal and civil liability is of concern to
reasonable consumers like health and safety concerns. The purchasers are harmed when
they are exposed to civil and criminal liability as detailed above in ¶¶ 47 et seq.

62. The practice of promoting a “remote install” Trojan horse attack is unfair. The
described operation of the “remote install” features bears a striking resemblance to
descriptions of the Trojan horse computer attacks issued by the Department of
Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT).

According to a US-CERT advisory:

A trojan horse is an attack method by which malicious or harmful code is
contained inside apparently harmless files. Once opened, the malicious code can
collect unauthorized information that can be exploited for various purposes, or
permit computers to be used surreptitiously for other malicious activity.108

This definition captures, for example, the Remotespy.com “remote install” feature. As
Remotespy.com promotes it:

Once the RemoteSpy file (you create) is executed on a computer, it will
continuously record log data on the computer you are monitoring secretly. You
can login anytime to your RemoteSpy account to view the recorded data in realtime!

RemoteSpy is completely stealth and designed to install without warning. Once
the executable is clicked the monitoring application will be started instantly.
There are no signs or warnings whatsoever.109

Promoting “remote install” Trojan horse attacks is unfair because this technique causes a
substantial harm, not outweighed by countervailing benefits, which consumers cannot
reasonably avoid. In the example above, the “remote install” involves promoting the
secret nature of the delivery of the software, and the fact that the target is a computer
which one does not have physical proximity or access to. This promotion is likely to
cause harmful surveillance of the form of a Trojan horse attack. The likelihood of
harmful surveillance is increased by two factors present in the promotion of the “remote
install”: the promotion of the secret nature of the surveillance, and the fact that it is
installed by sending a surreptitious email to a computer that one does not have physical
control of, or the ability to remotely log in via pre-existing administrative accounts. The
harm from such surveillance is described above in ¶¶ 47 et seq.

Little to no countervailing benefit comes from the promotion of “remote install” Trojan
horse attacks. Consumers may benefit from easily finding software to install in remote
computers for legitimate monitoring. Such promotion may be achieved by other methods
which do not teach users to create Trojan horse attacks, such as teaching the remote users
to download the surveillance software directly, or by having the purchaser log into the
remote machine and install the software via an administrative account.

Finally, consumers cannot reasonably avoid this harm because they are not aware of the
installation of the surveillance software via the “remote install” Trojan horse attack.
Consumers also do not receive adequate warnings of the dangers of using the software in
a Trojan horse attack.

63. Promoting “remote install” Trojan horse attacks is deceptive because purchasers
are likely to believe they are purchasing software that can be legitimately used for the
purposes advertised, thus causing harm. The injury of illegitimate surveillance is likely
because of two main factors: the promotion of the secret nature of the surveillance; and
the fact that it is installed by sending a surreptitious email to a computer that one does not
have physical or administrative control of. The promotion of “remote install” Trojans is
material. Express claims are presumed to be material.110 Claims are material if they
concern safety or the concerns of a reasonable consumer.111 The exposure to potential
criminal and civil liability is of concern to reasonable consumers like health and safety
concerns. Using the software to conduct Trojan horse attacks exposes the purchaser to
legal liabilities and harms the victims of the attacks, as described above in ¶¶ 47
et seq.

64. Several of the companies above fail to adequately warn users of the risks of
illegitimate uses of the surveillance products. The failure to warn is unfair because
substantial harms are likely, there is a low cost to remedy the lack of warnings, and users
cannot reasonably avoid these harms. The substantial harm is likely because purchasers
are likely to believe they can use the software for its advertised purposes in any setting.
There is little countervailing benefit from a lack an adequate warning — consumers may
appreciate the simpler advertisements, but warnings can be simply delivered as well.
Remedying this belief is the low cost alternative of prominent disclaimers warning users
that they require authorization in order to monitor another’s computer. Victims cannot
reasonably avoid these harms because they are not made aware of the surveillance of
their computers. Purchasers also cannot reasonably avoid the harm because they are not
made aware of the dangers of the product.

65. The failure to adequately warn users is deceptive because it is likely to materially
mislead consumers, causing injury. An omission can be misleading if a seller does not
adequately correct a false impression.112 Consumers are likely to use these products for
the advertised purposes: monitoring others’ computers. Specifically, consumers are likely
to believe that they are permitted to spy on their spouses. Private investigators consider
the ability to install spyware on a spouse’s computer to be part of a misconception that
many have — that “[i]f its my spouse. I can do what I want.”113 Thus harmful use is more
likely if the promotion does not include adequate warnings. The omission is material
because reasonable users are concerned that they not violate the law. The injury caused is
described above in ¶¶ 47 et seq.

V. Prayer for Investigation and Relief

66. EPIC requests that the Commission investigate the above named parties, enjoin
their unfair and deceptive practices, and seek damages for aggrieved individuals.

67. EPIC requests that future Commission spyware enforcement include the amateur
spyware industry.

68. EPIC requests that the FTC investigate other potential harms of the amateur
spyware industry beyond the named parties, including:

a. Amateur spyware disabling or avoiding of user installed anti-virus and anti-spyware technology.

b. Amateur spyware opening security holes in the systems of users.

c. Amateur spyware companies’ securing of data collected.

d. Amateur spyware companies’ response to non-customer victims of surveillance who contact them for legal and technical support.

69. EPIC requests that the FTC promulgate a set of best practices, enforced via its
Section 5 authority, to provide guidelines to the amateur spyware industry about what
constitutes an adequate level of consumer protection.

Respectfully submitted,

Marc Rotenberg
Executive Director
Guilherme Roschke
Skadden Fellow
Electronic Privacy
Information Center
1718 Connecticut Ave NW
#200
Washington DC 20009
202-483-1140
http://epic.orgMarch 6, 2008

******************************************

1 See e.g., Spytech Affiliate Program, http://www.spytechaffiliates.com/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

2 In the Matter of DoubleClick, Complaint and Request for Injunction, Request for Investigation and for
Other relief, before the Federal Trade Commission (Feb. 10, 2000) available at
http://epic.org/privacy/internet/ftc/DCLK_complaint.pdf.

3 In the Matter of Microsoft Corporation, Complaint and Request for Injunction, Request for Investigation
and for Other Relief (July 26,2001), http://epic.org/privacy/consumer/MS_complaint.pdf.

4 In the Matter of Microsoft Corporation, File No. 012 3240, Docket No. C-4069 (Aug. 2002), available at
http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0123240/0123240.shtm. See also, Fed. Trade Comm’n, “Microsoft Settles
FTC Charges Alleging False Security and Privacy Promises” (Aug. 2002) (“The proposed consent order
prohibits any misrepresentation of information practices in connection with Passport and other similar
services. It also requires Microsoft to implement and maintain a comprehensive information security
program. In addition, Microsoft must have its security program certified as meeting or exceeding the
standards in the consent order by an independent professional every two years.”), available at
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/08/microsoft.shtm.

5 Webwatcher Contact Us — Computer Monitoring,
http://www.awarenesstech.com/Consumer/ContactUs.html (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

6 Remote Spy — About Remote Spy Software, LLC, http://www.remotespy.com/aboutus.php (last visited
Feb. 25, 2008).

7 http://www.awarenesstech.com/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

8 http://www.awarenesstech.com/Parental/, http://www.awarenesstech.com/Cheating/,
http://www.awarenesstech.com/Consumer (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

9 http://www.awarenesstech.com/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

10 http://www.awarenesstech.com/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

11 Id.

12 Id.

13 Id.

14 http://www.awarenesstech.com/Consumer (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

15 Id.

16 http://www.remotepcspy.com/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

17 Id.

18 http://www.remotepcspy.com/remotespy.htm (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

19 Id.

20 Id.

21 http://www.remotepcspy.com/agreement.htm (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

22 http://covert-spy.com/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

23 Id.

24 Id.

25 Id.

26 Id.

27 http://covert-spy.com/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

28 Id.

29 Id.

30 http://www.remotespy.com/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

31 Id.

32 Id.

33 http://www.remotespy.com/features.php (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

34 http://www.remotespy.com/features2.php (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

35 http://www.remotespy.com/faq.php (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

36 http://www.remotespy.com/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

37 http://www.remotespy.com/helpdesk/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

38 http://www.remotespy.com/tutorial.php (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

39 http://www.remotespy.com/tutorial-2.php (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

40 Id.

41 Id.

42 Id.

43 http://www.spy-guide.net/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

44 http://www.spy-guide.net/ispynow-spy-software.htm (last visited Feb. 25, 2008).

45 Id.

46 Id.

47 15 U.S.C. § 45.

48 Id. at § 45(n).

49 Fed. Trade Comm’n, FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, (Dec. 17, 1980), available at
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/policystmt/ad-unfair.htm [hereinafter FTC Unfairness Policy].

50 Id.

51 Id.

52 Id.

53 Id.

54 Id.

55 Id.

56 Id.

57 Id.

58 Id.

59 Fed. Trade Comm’n, FTC Policy Statement on Deception, (Oct. 14, 1983), available at

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/policystmt/addecept.htm [hereinafter FTC Deception Policy].

60 Id.

61 Id.

62 Id.

63 Id.

64 Id.

65 Id.

66 Id.

67 Id.

68 Center for Democracy and Technology, SPYWARE ENFORCEMENT (2007) available at

http://www.cdt.org/privacy/spyware/20071015SpywareEnforcement.pdf.

69 Department of Justice, Creator and Four Users of Loverspy Spyware Program Indicted, Aug. 26, 2005,
available at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/perezIndict.htm. See also, infra ¶ 50.

70 18 U.S.C. § 2511.

71 18 U.S.C. § 2701.

72 18 U.S.C. § 1030.

73 18 U.S.C. § 2512.

74 Sharon Nelson & John Simek, Ghostbusters: “Who You Gonna Call”, FAMILY ADVOCATE, Winter 2006,
at 40.

75 Department of Justice, Creator and Four Users of Loverspy Software Indicted (Aug. 26 2005),
http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/perezIndict.htm.

76 Id.

77 Tony Plohetski, Spying on Lovers Email? Monitoring May Be Illegal, AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN,
Nov. 13 2007, available at
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/11/13/1113spy.html.

78 Id.

79 Id.

80 Ellen Messmer, Spouse vs. Spouse,Cyberspying Dangerous, Possibly Illegal, NETWORK WORLD, Aug.
16, 2007.

81 Anti-Spyware Coalition, Anti-Spyware Coalition Risk Model Description, Nov. 12, 2007, available at
http://www.antispywarecoalition.org/documents/documents/2007riskmodel.pdf [hereinafter ASC Risk
Model].

82 ASC Risk Model, supra note 81, at 3.

83 ASC Risk Model, supra note 81, at 8.

84 Chris L. Jenkins, Stalkers Go High Tech to Intimidate Victims, WASHINGTON POST, Apr. 14, 2007, at A1,
available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/
content/article/2007/04/13/AR2007041302392_pf.html.

85 Id.

86 Lisa Osburn, Spyware GPS Become Tools for Domestic Violence, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, Oct. 25,
2007.

87 Ellen Messmer, Spouse vs. Spouse,Cyberspying Dangerous, Possibly Illegal, NETWORK WORLD, Aug.
16, 2007.

88 Marie Tessier, Hi-Tech Stalking Devices Extend Abuser’s Reach, WOMEN’S E-NEWS, Oct. 1, 2006,
http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2905/.

89 Spy Tools Raise Child Development, Illegal Use Concerns, WASHINGTON INTERNET DAILY, Mar. 19,
2007.

90 David Silverber, Arrest of Identity Theft’s Bonnie and Clyde Opens Debate on Spyware Programs,
DIGITAL JOURNAL, Dec. 5 2007,
http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/246998/Arrest_of_Identity_Theft_s_Bonnie_and_Clyde_Opens_Deb
ate_on_Spyware_Programs.

91 MaryClaire Dale, Jet-Setters Charged With Identity Theft, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 4, 2007,
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gIGiwX_6-n_B-u1ipXyNzVBg1EGQD8TB0DO01.

92 Marie Tessier, Hi-Tech Stalking Devices Extend Abuser’s Reach, WOMEN’S E-NEWS, Oct. 1, 2006,
http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2905/.

93 Federal Trade Comm’n, Monitoring Software on Your PC: Spyware, Adware. and Other Software, 2
(March 2005), available at http://www.ftc.gov/os/2005/03/050307spywarerpt.pdf [hereinafter FTC
Spyware Report].

94 Id. at 8-9.

95 Id. at 11-12.

96 Id. at 10.

97 Id. at 10-11.

98 Id. at 19.

99 Supra, ¶ 48.

100 Exec. Order No. 13,402, 3 C.F.R 225 (2006), available at
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2007/janqtr/3CFR13402.htm.

101 The President’s Identity Theft Task Force, COMBATING IDENTITY THEFT: A STRATEGIC PLAN (2007).

102 See eg., Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, Pub. L. No.
109-162, 119 Stat. 2960 (2005).

103 EPIC, Violence Against Women Act and Privacy, http://epic.org/privacy/dv/vawa.html.

104 Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman, Fed. Trade Comm’n, Building a Culture of privacy and Security, 6
(March 7, 2007) available at http://www.ftc.gov/speeches/majoras/070307iapp.pdf.

105 Id. at 8-9.

106 FTC Deception Policy, supra note 59.

107 Id.

108 US-CERT, Targeted Trojan Email Attacks, TA05-189 (July 8, 2005), http://www.uscert.
gov/cas/techalerts/TA05-189Apr.html.

109 supra, ¶ 32.

110 FTC Deception Policy, supra note 59.

111 Id.

112 FTC Deception Policy, supra note 59; See id at n. 9, quoting “The nature, appearance, or intended use of
a product may create the impression on the mind of the consumer . . . and if the impression is false, and if
the seller does not take adequate steps to correct it, he is responsible for an unlawful deception.”

113 Pam Dawkins, So You Want to Be a Private Eye, CONNECTICUT POST ONLINE, Oct 12, 2007.

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