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New York man to settle in Washington's first spyware case
Posted on May 08, 2006

Gary T. Preston, of Jamaica, N.Y., will pay $7,200 in legal costs and attorneys' fees. Investigators allege that Preston permitted Secure Computer's Web domains to be registered in his name and provided his credit card to make company purchases.

The settlement does not include any admission or finding of wrongdoing, but prohibits Preston from assisting any person or organization in disguising its identity from the public or law enforcement.

"While his activities did not directly violate Washington's spyware act, they made it much more difficult to identify the real seller of Spyware Cleaner," Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna said.

Preston is the second defendant to settle in the Attorney General's case against Secure Computer, based in White Plains, N.Y., and associates in the United States and India.

Filed in January in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the lawsuit is the office's first under the state's 2005 Computer Spyware Act and follows a five-month investigation by the Attorney General's Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit.

The suit alleges that Secure Computer has marketed and sold Spyware Cleaner since at least 2004 through pop-up ads, spam e-mails, and deceptive hyperlink ads that offer a "free scan."

The state's investigation found that this scan always detected spyware on a user's computer, even if none existed. The investigation also showed that the full version of Spyware Cleaner, available only by purchase, failed to detect spyware on a deliberately infected computer and erased the Hosts file, rendering the computer vulnerable to potential attacks from unwanted programs.

"Software programs such as those used to sell Spyware Cleaner are known as scareware because their intent is to cause anxiety," McKenna said. "That sort of activity is deceptive and illegal under Washington's spyware law."

Burke and Preston were both named as defendants in the suit. In addition, three other individuals were charged in connection with advertising Spyware Cleaner: Zhijian Chen, of Portland, Ore.; Seth Traub, of Portsmouth, N.H., and Manoj Kumar, of Maharashtra, India.

The state reached a settlement with Chen in April. He will pay nearly $84,000 in fines and consumer restitution for promoting Spyware Cleaner through Net Send messages sent to personal computers throughout the United States. The messages simulated system warnings. By agreeing to the settlement, Chen admits violating Washington's Computer Spyware Act and Consumer Protection Act.

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AG Rob McKenna sues Secure Computer LLC under new anti-spyware act
SOURCE: ATTORNEY GENERAL OF WASHINGTON