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July 9, 2006

Spyware Companies And Their Evil Money

Business Week has a story about Direct Revenue, a spyware company from New York that has installed its malicious software on more than 100 million computers. The spyware software produced by Direct Revenue is bundled in free software like screensavers, smilies, file sharing tools. Once installed, the program monitors users' internet usage and delivers targeted pop-ups.

"Spyware rakes in an estimated $2 billion a year in revenue, or about 11 percent of all Internet ad business, says the research firm IT-Harvest. Direct Revenue's direct customers have included such giants as Delta Air Lines and Cingular Wireless. It has sold millions of dollars of advertising passed along by Yahoo." Other customers: Travelocity, Priceline.com, Vonage.

The spyware produced by the company is very difficult to uninstall and can sometimes disable other companies' spyware. It's funny to see that even Direct Revenue's investors fell prey to their software. "Disaster ensued, as Aurora paralyzed thousands of computers. Branko Krmpotic, the managing director of Technology Investment Capital Corp. (TICC), which had invested $6.7 million in Direct Revenue, also caught the Aurora bug and couldn't kill it, according to e-mails. Eventually, Direct Revenue had to send its customer support director to fix Krmpotic's machine. After receiving complaints about Aurora, Insight Venture, another major investor, told the company to remove Insight's name from the Direct Revenue Web site."

While the company stopped delivering lethal software like Aurora, it continues to infect many computers of non-tech-savvy users and receive threatening mails like this: "If I ever meet anyone from your company, I will kill you."

{ Via Slashdot. }

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