House Passes Gordner Measure to Protect Computer Users; Bill Just Needs Governor’s Signature to Become Law

(HARRISBURG) – – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has  passed legislation authored by Senator John R. Gordner (R-27) to improve computer security by preventing Spyware, a tool used by cyber identity thieves to obtain personal information.  The bill now moves to Governor Ed Rendell for his signature, culminating a three-session effort to enact a tough pro-consumer law.

Senate Bill 123 would make it a crime to distribute Spyware to a computer without the user’s consent or knowledge.  Spyware is a term for a 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.

“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.”

“This bill gives Pennsylvania one of the nation’s toughest laws against Spyware.  It prohibits the bad conduct and deceptive practices used by Spyware providers, without over-regulating technologies that provide valuable benefits to consumers, such as automatic security updates,” said Senator Gordner.

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.  Dell Computer now estimates that one of every five customer support calls are related to Spyware.

Supported by the Attorney General and law enforcement, when Senate Bill 123 is enacted 60 days from the date it is signed into law, prosecutors will be able to seek penalties of up to ten years in prison and fines of up to $25,000 for each violation. The Attorney General is also authorized to seek civil penalties and restitution for victims of computer Spyware.