CSIA: Fight against spyware is on

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The newly formed Anti-Spyware Coalition held its first public workshop earlier this month as a way to bring together key players to discuss malicious software, the Cyber Security Industry Alliance said in its February newsletter.

The Feb. 9 workshop held in Washington D.C. sought to define spyware and develop solutions to combat the problem, the CSIA said. About 350 people, including industry, government and academic leaders, participated.

Spyware quickly is becoming a major consumer concern, experts have said.

The Ponemon Institute reported that 85 percent of frequent internet users believe they have had spyware on their computer, while 86 percent of those said the spyware caused a loss in money or productivity, according to the CSIA.

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras, delivering the keynote address at the workshop, urged the public and private sectors to fight fraudsters while firming the agency's enforcement stance against spyware suppliers, the CSIA said. She also promised fall hearings on consumer protection in the high-tech global marketplace.

Other speakers, such as agency Commissioner Jonathan Leibowitz, suggested the agency publicly name any legitimate companies that send nuisance software, the CSIA said. Walter Mossberg, Wall Street Journal technology columnist, criticized anti-virus vendors for failing to produce effective solutions.

The workshop proved that a lot of work remains, the CSIA said.

"The public needs education," the group said. "Policy and enforcement communities must find ways to track and (prosecute) spyware perpetrators across borders and create legislation that serves a politically diverse world."

Since its formation last spring, the Anti-Spyware Coalition – coordinated through the Center for Democracy and Technology - has adopted definitions for spyware and other potentially unwanted technologies and published a document detailing specific behaviors that constitute spyware.

"We've already made great strides in the fight to give people back control over their computers," said Ari Schwartz, the center's deputy director. "If the coalition's first nine months are any indication, we'll have a great many more accomplishments to discuss nine months from now."

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