WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday voted to establish new penalties for purveyors of Internet "spyware" that disables users' computers and secretly monitors their activities.
By overwhelming majorities, the House passed two bills that stiffen jail sentences and establish multimillion-dollar fines for those who use secret surveillance programs to steal credit-card numbers, sell software or commit other crimes.
Spyware has emerged as a major headache for computer users over the last several years.
It can sap computing power, crash machines and bury users under a blizzard of unwanted ads. Scam artists use spyware to capture passwords, account numbers and other sensitive data.
Spyware can end up on users' computers through a virus or when they download games or other free programs off the Internet.