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Keystroke-Logging App Supplier Challenges Anti-Spyware Vendor

It is reflective of a growing animosity between anti-spyware vendors and companies that believe their applications are being unfairly listed as spyware.

RetroCoder Ltd. has threatened legal action against Sunbelt Software for listing the U.K. company's commercial keystroke-logging application in its anti-spyware database, reflecting the growing animosity between some software makers and security vendors.

In an email sent Oct. 28 to Sunbelt, RetroCoder demanded that its SpyMon product, which secretly records computer users' keystrokes, be removed from the company's detection list, arguing that Sunbelt was in violation of the European Union's copyright law, as explained in Retrocoder's end user licensing agreement.

"If you read the copyright agreement when you downloaded or ran our program, you will see that anti-spyware publishers/software houses are not allowed to download, run or examine the software in any way," SpyMon author Anthony Ball wrote in an email to Sunbelt. "By doing so you are breaking EU copyright law, this is a criminal offense. Please remove our program from your detection list or we will be forced to take action against you."

Sunbelt President Alex Eckelberry, who gave the email to TechWeb, said RetroCoder had no valid legal argument, and its software would remain in the company's database.

"He's going to be listed whether he likes it or not. Period," Eckelberry said. "It's not open for question or discussion."

RetroCoder, which is based in the United Kingdom, was not immediately available for comment.

The spat is reflective of a growing animosity between anti-spyware vendors and companies who believe their applications are being unfairly listed as spyware. In some cases, applications listed in anti-spyware products can be damaging to a person's computer, or, if distributed by a hacker, could lead to the theft of personal information, such as passwords to online banking accounts. Many times, however, the alleged spyware is an innocuous cookie used to track a person's navigation through a Web site.

For companies whose software gets listed as spyware, whether true or not, the chances of that application remaining on a consumer's computer are greatly diminished. Researchers say consumers using anti-spyware routinely delete everything listed, no questions asked.

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