The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has come to a settlement with software firm Cyber Spy over the selling and marketing of their “computer monitoring and Internet spy software”. Cyber Spy are the manufacturers of Remote Spy computer monitoring software. The software is designed to monitor activities on a computer such as websites visited, instant messaging conversations and documents opened.

While you may find that alarming, Cyber Spy’s software does something even worse, it also logs keystrokes. In effect recording every key pressed on your computer. This gives the software the ability to record passwords and any other sensitive information and then send that log back to another user in a remote location.

The Cyber Spy website markets the software as “perfect for those who wish to monitor their computer while away and view the logs online!” but the uses for software like this are obvious, stealing bank details, e-mail passwords and more. That makes the Cyber Spy software the perfect tool for identity or financial theft, and anyone can buy it online quite easily!

The FTC took Cyber Spy to court in 2008 over the way in which the Cyber Spy software could be distributed. Included with the software were instructions on how to install the software as spyware, without the users knowledge, disguised as a simple e-mail attachment. Users would receive an e-mail, open the attachment and Cyber Spy’s software would begin logging keystrokes and other activities on the affected machine. The US District Court issued an injunction which temporarily prevented Cyber Spy from any further sales of the software.

The new settlement reached between the FTC and Cyber Spy requires Cyber Spy to reduce the risk that their monitoring software will be used for malicious purposes as well as instructing them to remove any legacy installations of the software. A visit to the site seems to indicate the product is once again for sale, and though the FTC may have reached a settlement to reduce the risk to computer users, Cyber Spy continues to market the software seemingly unhindered.

Anyone using a computer should take measures to prevent themselves being the target of a spyware attack. Spyware software comes in many forms and Cyber Spy is just one example of computer monitoring software that can be used to target your machine. There are many excellent anti-virus and anti-spyware software programs available (and many are free) so there is no reason to be the victim of spyware.

The FTC settlement, though it places some restrictions on how Cyber Spy software is marketed, doesn’t prevent the sale of the monitoring software and while it is a good thing that some action is being taken against the makers of potentially malicious software, perhaps the judgment is not harsh enough.