Judge Grants Default Judgment Against Malware Programmer

RENO, Nev. - U.S. District Court Judge Howard D. McKibben sided with the Federal Trade Commission and granted a default judgment against an ERG Ventures programmer for infecting computers with spyware and adult-oriented pop-ups.

In November 2006, the FTC charged software developer ERG Ventures, its principals and programmer Timothy P. Taylor with luring consumers into downloading malware by concealing it within seemingly harmless free programs. Taylor was responsible for running ERG Ventures, which operated adult sites such as PrivateInPublic.com, Media Motor and JoystickSavers.com.

The FTC also said ERG Ventures and Taylor used a deceptive End User License Agreement, which claimed to give users the option to halt the installation of the program but installed the malware regardless of what option the user selected.

The spyware inconspicuously activated itself after being downloaded and installed programs that altered consumers' home pages, tracked their Internet activity, altered browser settings, degraded computer performance and disabled anti-spyware and anti-virus software, the FTC said.

Apparently, the malware programs were nearly impossible for the defendants to remove from their computers.

McKibben's judgment requires Taylor to stop dispensing malware and pop-up software, and surrender $4,595.36 in profit from the operation.

ERG Ventures co-owners Robert A. Davidson II., Elliott S. Cameron and Gary E. Hill also were named in the original suit, but litigation in their cases ended in October 2007.

Microsoft assisted in the investigation, which began two years ago, the FTC said.