Gordner’s Spyware Legislation Clears House Committee

(HARRISBURG) – Legislation authored by State Sen. John R. Gordner (R-27) to prevent the distribution of computer Spyware, a tool used by identity thieves to obtain personal information, has cleared a House Committee and will be voted on by the House next month.

Senate Bill 711 would make it a crime to distribute Spyware to a computer without the user’s consent or knowledge. Spyware is a term for any computer program that gathers information through the user’s Internet connection and transmits it to a third party. This information, which includes passwords and personal identification numbers, can be used to commit fraud.

Senate Bill 711 unanimously passed in the House Consumer Affairs Committee and is in place for passage in the House in March, when budget hearings in Harrisburg are concluded.

“As more and more Pennsylvanians choose to make purchases and handle their finances online, we must take further steps to protect the privacy of our personal information,” Senator Gordner said. “Spyware presents a serious threat to the security of our personal information, and we must take action to prevent this valuable information from falling into the wrong hands.”

In addition to being used by identity thieves, Spyware may also affect a computer’s basic operations. Spyware can be used to modify a user’s bookmarks and home page, manipulate search engines, remove or disable anti-virus software or trigger other harmful downloads to the user’s computer.

Spyware is a growing problem in today’s economy. America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance examined the computers of 329 randomly-selected Internet users last October and found that 85 percent were infected with some form of Spyware or Adware. Dell Computer now estimates that one of every five customer support calls are related to Spyware.

Senate Bill 711 is a major component of a comprehensive package of bi-partisan legislation introduced to protect personal information and prevent identity theft in Pennsylvania.  Other bills in the package include measures to protect social security numbers, require disclosure of computer security breaches, protect credit reports and provide for a mechanism to obtain a new driver’s license number in cases of identity theft.