After Lawsuits, Company Pulls Spyware Cleaner

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After being sued by both Microsoft and the Washington state attorney general, Secure Computer has taken a second look at its antispyware product and decided to pull it from the market.

In lawsuits filed earlier this week, Microsoft and the Attorney General had criticized Secure Computer's Spyware Cleaner, saying that it was largely ineffective and actually rendered users' operating systems less secure.

After having a "technologist" review the product, "Secure Computer has confirmed that some of the problems with the software alleged in the lawsuit appear to exist," the company said in a statement released Thursday by its legal firm, Dozier Internet Law PC.

Consequently, the company has now pulled the product from the marketplace until the issues raised by the lawsuits are resolved, the statement said.

Secure Computer is facing millions of dollars in possible fines after being sued for violating Washington's Spyware, Commercial Electronic Mail, and Consumer Protection Acts, as well as the federal CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act. Separately, the company has also been sued by Microsoft for a variety of claims, including trademark violations.

The lawsuits allege that the company used deceptive marketing practices to sell a product that did not work as promised.

In previous interview, Dozier Managing Partner John Dozier had said that his client was "shocked and surprised" by the lawsuits. Dozier did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Contract Work

Secure Computer did not actually develop Spyware Cleaner but farmed that work out to a contractor who has developed "three other popular antispyware applications presently being sold and distributed," the statement said.

That contractor appears to be a software developer named Mladen Bajic, according to Eric Howes, director of malware research at antispyware vendor Sunbelt Software, and a contributor to the Spyware Warrior Web site. The software is similar to a number of other antispyware products including software called Scan & Repair Utilities 2006 and SpyVest, he said in a Wednesday interview.

Spyware Warrior has classified Spyware Cleaner as "rogue" software, meaning it is of dubious value as antispyware protection.

"It's not completely worthless, but compared to the top antispyware products on the market, it's not even in the same class," Howes said. "The number of false positives turned up by this product was just ridiculous."

The Washington attorney general's office declined to say whether this latest development would affect its lawsuit. "Once we begin [litigation], I think it does a disservice to the defendants and the state to negotiate and discuss the case publicly," said Assistant Attorney General Paula Selis.

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