Malware on the way out
July 15, 2004 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Are spyware & adware on the way out? More and more I'm hearing about companies taking the turn for the better. BOUT TIME! Even the once-accused WeatherBug has taken strong stances and stronger actions against malware, and is called for it. But will it last, has features and views beat the 'ware?
posted by omidius (8 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: looks like an ad for weatherbug to me

"But there's one final caveat that I do have issue with. Installing the free version of WeatherBug also installs the MySearch toolbar, a so-called "browser helper object" (BHO) that promises to give you quick access to search engines like Google, Yahoo, AskJeeves and LookSmart, and puts the current temperature in your IE toolbar. "

WeatherBug is adware. Period.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:11 AM on July 15, 2004

God, I hate that thing. I have a client who keeps reinstalling it despite my explaining to him that most of the problems he hires me to fix for him are related to it or other adware/spyware apps he has on his laptop. Keeps me in business, though *shrug*.
posted by Hackworth at 10:16 AM on July 15, 2004

Some of the secretaries where I work have so many toolbars installed (along with other random ad/spyware) that you have about two inches left of actual browser space.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:32 AM on July 15, 2004

promises to give you quick access to search engines like Google, Yahoo, AskJeeves and LookSmart


and there i was wasting my precious time clicking BOOKMARKS!
posted by quonsar at 11:12 AM on July 15, 2004

I actualy have the google and alexa toolbars installed on my instance of IE (which I rarely use anyway, these days). the google toolbar is actualy pretty helpfull, and it's always intresting to see a site's page rank (and contribute to it).

But I knew exactly what I was getting into with those two bars, and I understood what advertizing I'd be getting. Most of this crap is installed behind peoples back in software downloads, misleading active X controls, or even outright hacking (taking advantage of IE exploits).

It's wrong and should be stopped.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 AM on July 15, 2004

It's wrong and should be stopped.
posted by Witty at 11:39 AM on July 15, 2004

Metafilter: It's wrong and ...

Oh, never mind :P
posted by abcde at 12:07 PM on July 15, 2004

Disclaimer: As an contractor for a direct marketing firm, I work with the BHO cottage industry as both a developer and in the distribution of BHO.

Most companies don't want their product installed via drive by. There are a few notable exceptions, like GAIN, which I usually come across as a security warning with no additional information to what the product is. One of the problems is that distrubution of BHO, and other products that are considered adware, is not usually done entirely through the products website. Instead, it's done through affiliate networks. Some companies allow and even encourage you to just get the damn program installed, which leads to drive by installs. Other comapnies provide a great deal of pre-install information, including supporting websites, feature lists, removal instructions, statement of software principles, etc.

For the most part, BHO and their associated programs are intended to be useful to the end user. At the same time, they are intended to build revenue for the distributor(s). The problem most people have with these kinds of programs is not that they build revenue, but that they abuse the murky waters of EULAs, even if the EULA is not obvious, not avialable or constantly changing. When installing WeatherBug, it's perfectly acceptable for them to offer to install the MySearch BHO. However, by doing so as an opt out, whereby the offending software can only be opted out by, sometimes very complicated, removal, WeatherBug's current distro is adware. The opt out by uninstall principle is enough for me to avoid that companies products.

On the other hand, the MySearch BHO is a useful product. By itself, if you install it voluntarily, it's not adware. (They may have changed it since I've last worked with them, of course.) It may not be your cup of tea, but I don't believe they want you using the toolbar against your will. Removing their toolbar is easy and obvious. As strange as the concept may be to me (and you), some people enjoy BHO and actively use them.

Adware is very different than spyware and malware. All it means is that someone is trying to show you ads. There are varying degrees, from the google toolbar which generates traffic to their website where ads are shown to BHO that show you popups on every page. BHO that act as conduits for more software to be installed are not adware specifically - they are trojans and should be treated with a great degree of suspect. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with being adware, but the way in which many companies have chosen to display ads or generate revenue is underhanded at best. When the user and publisher relationship is abused or obfuscated by EULA abuses, you end up with slew of consequences the user is entirely unaware of at install time.

Recently, someone I know choose to install software against the computer owners wishes. Within a week, the computer was taken over by malware. The reason is that the software that was originally not supposed to be installed contained a trojan, which regularly downloaded new software to the machine and installed it. The machine became a zombie, sending spam, viruses and all sorts of malware. There is no defense of this. This should be a blatant property crime.
posted by sequential at 12:33 PM on July 15, 2004

« Older The search engine is dead! Long live the search...   |   Human Development Report 2004 Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments