Federal Trade Commission addresses pop-up spam

Company is charged with using Windows to spam pop-up ads

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is set to air concerns over external party exploitation of a service in Microsoft's Windows software that is designed to allow network administrators to send notices to users.

The Windows Messenger Service, which is normally used for sending information such as messages that print jobs have been completed, is being targeted by third parties to send pop-up spam.

The problem can even arise when consumers are using other applications, such as word processing, while connected to the Internet, the FTC said in a statement.

The FTC said that a press conference this week will address consumer concerns about the service and provide details on how consumers can avoid the problem.

Last month, Microsoft executives announced that they had plans to disable the Messenger Service on Windows XP machines and activate the Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) by default to protect computers from the attacks.

The changes are slated for release in Windows XP Service Pack 2. Company representatives have said, however, that they have not ruled out the possibility of shutting down the service earlier.

Enough users have been reporting the pop-up spam problem that Microsoft internet rival America Online (AOL) has even gone so far as to shut off the Windows Messenger Service feature of AOL subscribers without informing them ahead of time.

AOL said its call centers began receiving a large number of complaints about the problem last year, soon after spammers discovered that they could exploit the feature.

In a separate case, the FTC has filed suit against D Squared Solutions for allegedly using Windows' messenger feature, which is intended for administrative alerts, to barrage users with pop-up ads for its product.

The FTC charges D Squared and two of its officers with unfair use of Windows Messenger Service and with unfair attempts to coerce consumers into purchasing D Squared's software.

Those officers could not be reached for comment.

Scarlet Pruitt and Stacy Cowley write for IDG News Service

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