The Naked Computer That Fights Crime

Exposed for your protection.

As everyone knows, the real reason Al Gore invented the Internet is porn. Behind-the-butt money shots starring everyone from clumsy, grunting amateurs to Gene Simmons are just a mouse click away. The pros are on the Web too, of course, but watching Jenna Jameson and her colleagues usually requires a fee. That's probably what made adult entertainment site Movieland.com's advertisements so enticing: a free three-day trial, no credit card required. Who wouldn't sign up for that? But those who did discovered that after three days of, um, studying the Movieland pros' moves, a pop-up started appearing, and every hour a 40-second video covered most of the screen, instructing users to pay for the now-no-longer-free porn service and the accompanying software they had unknowingly downloaded. "It held you over a barrel until you paid it," explains Paula Selis, a lawyer in Attorney General Rob McKenna's office. To go after the people behind schemes like the Movieland pop-ups, McKenna's office has set up a PC, which it leaves naked and shivering in the cold, cruel landscape of the World Wide Web. Selis says the "honey pot computer," as it's called, has no firewalls or virus-protection software. "If there's anything out there, it will go to that computer," Selis says. The AG's office booted it up in 2006 on the heels of the state Computer Spyware Act, which gave government agencies and private entities alike the ability to pursue offenders in civil court. Companies like Microsoft, for instance, now find and sue people claiming to sell fake virus-protection software. (See "Spyder Bytes," SW, Oct. 15.) The case against Movieland settled for $50,000 in April 2007. Selis says the money was first used to pay back anyone who had been duped in the Movieland racket, with leftover funds covering court fees. Currently the AG's office is pursuing a case against a Texas man named James Reed McCreary IV, whom they accuse of selling a fake virus-protection program. The suit, filed in September, is the seventh such action since the AG started targeting tech crimes almost three years ago. It's nice to know that someone is helping to protect the needs of Internet porn consumers. No wonder McKenna was just re-elected in a landslide.

 
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