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FTC settles with eight companies charged with computer spying

Posted by: Jane Friedmann under Buyer beware, Whistleblower Updated: April 17, 2013 - 2:26 PM

A Pennsylvania company that allegedly provided spying software and monitoring services to seven rent-to-own companies for installation on computers rented to customers must stop doing so, according to an announcement by the Federal Trade Commission on Monday.

Designerware Inc., LLC, Timothy Kelly of Pennsylvania and Ronald P. Koller of Florida leased software that had the ability to shut down a computer if a renter was late with payments, track the physical location of a computer, log keystrokes, take screen grabs and photograph anybody within view of the computers webcam, the FTC said.

The renters were not informed of the presence of the software and it is undetectable by antivirus software. The captured data was transmitted to Designerware, which forwarded it to the rental stores.

The companies, none of which is located in Minnesota, were barred from using the software or other deceptive measures to gather information from computers rented to customers, the FTC said.

Kelly gave the following description of  one feature of the software, PC Rental Agent, in a 2010 email, according to the FTC.

 The way the Detective [Detective Mode] works is like many spyware/malware programs. The Agent [PC Rental Agent] runs  outside the user session so it is not detectable by antivirus programs, etc. However when you turn on the Detective, the Agent takes an executable and inject[s] it into the user session and hooks the screen, keyboard, and mouse so it can ‘Spy’ on the user and gather information. A similar program could be launched to steal credit cards or someone’s information.

Click here to read more about the settlement.

The FTC also provides tips on how to keep your personal information secure.

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