OPTA Hits DollarRevenue With $1.4M Fine

Q Boyer
THE HAGUE — The Dutch telecommunications regulator OPTA has fined three companies and two individuals connected to the DollarRevenue adware program $1.4 million, marking the first time that OPTA has imposed fines on distributors of unsolicited software.

According to OPTA, three companies operated together under the name DollarRevenue, through which 450 million program files were “illegally placed on 22 million computers.”

While the companies and individuals associated with DollarRevenue have denied doing anything unlawful, OPTA alleged that the operators of DollarRevenue “sought contact with foreign criminal botnet administrators, instructed their affiliates to provide Internet users with incomplete information or none at all, used pseudonyms, developed software of such a nature that it circumvented spyware filters and, for example, ignored complaints which they received from advertisers about their methods.”

“Hundreds of complaints appeared on the Internet about DollarRevenue software,” OPTA said in a press release. “They mentioned that people did not know how the software came to be on their computer nor how they should remove it. This is because the software did not include an uninstall function and could only be removed with expert assistance.”

The DollarRevenue program, which operated between October 2005 and November 2006, paid affiliates on a per-install basis, reportedly paying 15 cents per install in European countries and 25 cents per install in the U.S.

As is the case with many forms of adware and spyware, the DollarRevenue software served pop-up ads, on which the company sold advertising space to clients from a wide variety of Internet industry sectors, including adult entertainment and gambling websites.

According to OPTA, DollarRevenue was among the top 10 international distributors of spyware, and made more than $1 million just from operating a botnet that distributed their software in surreptitious fashion.

Although the company’s earnings easily exceeded the amount of the fine from OPTA, OPTA officials said the fine was appropriate and significant.

“Part of those funds [made by DollarRevenue] have been spent on day-to-day operations,” said Daan Molenaar, lead investigator for OPTA. “Besides, individual fines of several hundred thousand euros are unusually high and not very common.”

Molenaar said that DollarRevenue’s advertising clients, which included major companies like Hewlett-Packard, likely were unaware of the company’s illicit marketing and distribution methods.

“Legitimate firms typically end up on bad services through intermediaries,” Molenaar said.

OPTA has not released the names of the companies or individuals involved, pending the outcome of an objection to the fine.