Court limits RemoteSpy keylogger marketing

Maker of RemoteSpy keylogger spyware is limited in the ways it can market its product while a court considers whether the spyware is in compliance with the law.

Stephanie Condon Staff writer, CBSNews.com
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.
Stephanie Condon
2 min read

A U.S. District Court refused to impose an outright ban on the sale of RemoteSpy keylogger spyware, but the court has barred its parent company from marketing the product for deceptive purposes while it considers a complaint from the FTC that the software may violate the FTC Act.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, had previously issued a temporary restraining order against Florida-based CyberSpy Software, halting the sales of RemoteSpy. However, the court on November 25 issued a more narrowly tailored preliminary injunction (PDF).

CyberSpy altered the RemoteSpy Web site to comply with the injunction, and as of December 3, RemoteSpy was once again available for sale and users could access their accounts.

The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint (PDF) against CyberSpy Software on November 5, alleging the company has violated the FTC Act by selling software that can be deployed remotely by someone other than the owner or authorized user of a computer, can be installed without the owner's knowledge, and can used to surreptitiously collect and disclose personal information. The FTC also claims CyberSpy unfairly collected and stored personal information gathered with RemoteSpy.

The commission asked the court to permanently ban the sale of RemoteSpy and require CyberSpy to pay restitution for any injury to consumers resulting from violations of the FTC Act.

The preliminary injunction, in place while the FTC's case against CyberSpy is pending, orders the company and its CEO Tracer Spence to stop promoting, selling, or distributing RemoteSpy by "suggesting to customers that it may be, or is intended to be, surreptitiously installed on a computer without the knowledge or consent of the computer's owner." The defendants are also barred from providing others with the means to falsely represent a keylogger program as an innocuous file, such as photos or music.

"RemoteSpy is designed to be installed without the knowledge or consent of the owner or authorized user of a computer, and defendants' marketing touts this function," the court stated in its injunction. "In light of these marketing efforts, the potential for devastating abuse far outweighs the possibility of benign use."

CyberSpy is seeking to dismiss the entire lawsuit.

"The FTC claims our software should be illegal because someone, somewhere might abuse it," Spence said in a release, "but computer monitoring software is just like any other surveillance technology: There is nothing inherently illegal about binoculars, hidden cameras, or directional microphones, for example, but people can use those tools to break the law."