is driving the proliferation of badware
Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business
June 20-26, 2006; issue 869
High Tech Office column;
If you’ve ever wondered about why your home or work computer has
become infested with adware or spyware, the answer is that it’s
So-called free software and unscrupulous websites are paid to install
the stuff in wholesale lots. According to ZDNet
anti-spyware blogger Suzi Turner
, one affiliate program, GimmyCash!
, offers $0.40 per
installation of its bundle of programs; another adware marketer, DollarRevenue
, pays $0.30 per
These deals are not exclusive. Downloading and installing a single
piece of software can put multiple bundles of software onto your
computer. As well, ActiveX controls can be used to install software
when you click on a website popup window. Again, affiliate programs pay
the website owner for each installation.
started by researchers from Harvard
support from Google
and Consumer Reports
describes itself as a “neighborhood watch” objectively
reporting about software programs that spread this sort of junk. They
aim to “become a central clearinghouse for research on badware
and the bad actors who spread it.”
Stopbadware.org categorizes as “badware” software that uses
deceptive installations, is not clearly identified, causes harm to
other computers, modifies other software, transmits user data,
interferes with computer use and is difficult to fully uninstall.
Less objectionable, in its opinion, is software that may engage in some
of these objectionable behaviours only after adequate disclosure to
Stopbadware.org has started compiling reports about problematic
software. Among its list are several programs claiming to improve
system performance or security:
, as the
name suggests, promises to repair Windows systems. Instead, the free
version of the program installs a rootkit that repeatedly pops up
warnings of non-existent “system threats” until the user
pays for the full version.
remove spyware but identifies real anti-spyware software (such as Microsoft
’s Windows Defender
) as threats. SpyAxe
promises to “detect and remove potentially undesired
items.” Instead, the application asks for payment before removing
detected items, doesn’t allow the user to close the program and
pops again (requesting payment) when the computer is restarted.
Among the other reported badware:
a set of spyware-free games. Its set of card games and mahjong also
installs pop-up ads and redirects default browser error pages. A
component can install other software without user knowledge. The
uninstall routine actually installs other software!
After lawsuits shut down the original Napster
music-sharing network, Kazaa
became one of the most popular of the next generation of programs,
which tried to skirt file-sharing legality but didn’t host music
files on its own server. Despite claims that Kazaa is “spyware
free,” Stopbadware.org reports that Kazaa comes bundled with
seven other packages that install adware, modify Internet Explorer and
cannot be easily closed or uninstalled.
Stopbadware.org is soliciting horror stories from users. If
you’ve lost control of your computer due to badware, pay it a
visit. Despite those horror stories, however, not all downloaded
software is badware. While it can be hard to know who to trust online,
websites such as download.com
are repositories for spyware-free software.