Australian ISPs targeted in spyware fight

A private members bill has been introduced to the Australian parliament to combat spyware with hefty fines proposed on Internet service providers for distributing malicious code.

Australian Democrats Senator Brian Greig said the key issue is not in prohibiting spyware but the authorization for it to be downloaded onto a user’s machine.

“We are not banning spyware – it is stronger not to – we are ensuring the end user has given consent,” Grieg said. “The key issue with spyware, for us, is not in prohibition but authorization – you have to knowingly distribute spyware to be affected. If spyware was being distributed knowingly through an ISP then that ISP will be targeted with a legal response.”

The Democrats have proposed fines of A$10,000 (US$7,660) per incident. In proposing the bill, Greig said self-regulation has not and will not work in combating spyware.

Debate on the bill was adjourned but Australian Computer Society (ACS) president Edward Mandla questioned if it will work.

“If you could identify the sites that come attached with spyware and malware, and there are some suspects out there, find a body that can come up with those lists and then pass it to ISPs then you have something,” Mandla said.

“But to ask an ISP to try and work out from the millions of sites that change addresses everyday which ones have spyware, is an impossible task.

“If they cannot guarantee porn will be stopped because it is not cost-efficient or the senders are using clever masking, then they will never find spyware.”