Telecoms watchdog OPTA has fined three Dutch firms and their two directors a total of €1m for the illegal distribution of spyware.
It is the first time OPTA has imposed fines for spreading malicious Trojans, and has been called "one of the biggest cases of illegal software crime", by the regulator.
In 2005, the two unnamed businessmen distributed software called DollarRevenue among millions of internet users. Approximately 450 million software files were installed on 22 million computers in the Netherlands and abroad.
The adware application silently downloaded advertising software and installed it to the computer without the user's knowledge. DollarRevenue was also bundled with some ad-supported products and was extremely difficult to remove.
The software was also directly linked to certain botnet attacks, with over 7,700 machines hacked within 24 hours.
DollarRevenue was popular for its high payouts to affiliates on a pay per install basis. It paid 30 cents per install in the USA, 20 cents per install in Canada, 10 cents in the UK, one cent in China, and .02 cents in other countries. OPTA estimates that the trio of companies grossed more than €1m.
Although the directors deny any wrongdoing, OPTA believes the companies deliberately contacted hackers and cybercriminals, often after learning about them on the web. Its biggest partner became InfraDollars.biz, a Russian gang which at one point offered websites $0.06 for each machine they infected with adware and spyware.
You can find the judgement, in Dutch, here®