The US courts have shut down a spyware distributor.

Judge Howard McKibben of the US District Court for Nevada issued a temporary restraining order against ERG Ventures and an affiliate while the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seeks a permanent injunction.

The Web operation is accused of secretly loading spyware and other malevolent software onto millions of computers by promising users free screensavers and video files, the FTC said. Consumers were tricked into downloading Media Motor, which installs itself, downloads other malware and is very difficult to remove.

The malware installed by Media Motor then:

  • Changed people's home pages
  • Added difficult-to-remove toolbars that displayed pop-up ads
  • Tracked Internet activity
  • Added advertising icons to the desktop
  • Affected computer performance
  • And, disabled anti-spyware and anti-virus software

ERG Ventures and its affiliate Timothy P. Taylor - doing business as Team Taylor Made - have violated the FTC Act, which bars unfair and deceptive practices, the FTC charged. ERG Ventures and Taylor failed to disclose to consumers that the free software they offered was bundled with malware, and they used a deceptive end-user licence agreement, which gave consumers the option to halt the installation of all software from ERG, but secretly installed the malware anyway, the FTC said.

The FTC will ask the court to order the defendants to give up their illegal gains, the agency said. The complaint names ERG Ventures, doing business as ERG Ventures LLC2, Media Motor, Joysticksavers.com, and PrivateinPublic.com and its principal operators, Elliott S. Cameron, Robert A. Davidson II and Gary E. Hill, as well as Taylor.