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Positive News in the War on Spyware

180Solutions Inc., one of the largest purveyors of ad-serving software (labeled by some as "spyware"), has terminated its business relationship with Integrated Search Technologies (IST), a company that makes the family of toolbars for Internet Explorer that hijack the user's browser and serve pornographic pop-up ads. 180Solutions said it would no longer allow IST or any other third-party "affiliate" to install software on its behalf.

Often, IST's products will get installed when a visitor to one of these sites agrees to install the software -- either because the Web site (usually falsely) claims the software is necessary in order to view content on the site, or because a user downloaded "free" games from a site but didn't read or understand the complex license agreement stating that tons of other junk spyware and adware programs would be piled on as well.

More often, however, ISTbar and other spyware are installed via so-called drive-by downloads, where Web sites take advantage of flaws or weak security settings in IE to install software on a user's computer without his or her approval.

IST has been one of the most aggressive distributors of software made by 180Solutions, which has attracted fierce criticism over the years for failing to crack down on distributors who use shady or downright illegal install practices.

180Solutions's move comes after the Center for Democracy & Technology, a public interest group based in Washington, D.C., threatened to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over 180's business practices. Kudos to CDT (not to be confused with the infamous adware/spyware distributor bought up by 180 recently) for keeping the pressure on 180 to make changes it should have made years ago.

I will be visiting 180Solutions next week out in Bellevue, Wash., for another story I am working on, so I hope to gain a better perspective on whether this company is as dedicated to changing its business practices as it claims to be.

UPDATE, 5:44 p.m. ET: Spyware researcher Eric Howes points out that it is perhaps clearer to say that 180 will no longer allow third parties to install its software unless the method of install is first approved by 180. More specifically, the company will no longer let third-parties install its software via "ActiveX," a component included in Internet Explorer that spyware purveyors commonly abuse to install their wares with little or no interaction on the part of the user.

Howes said he's reserving judgment about 180's latest 180 switch. "This could potentially be a significant move by them, but given 180's history I'm going to take a wait-and-see attitude."

By Brian Krebs  |  October 11, 2005; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker  
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Comments

Correction:

""" purveyors of ad-serving software (labeled by some as "spyware") """

Sorry, but it's labeled as "adware"

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2005 8:39 PM | Report abuse

ad-serving software may correctly be labeled as "adware", but Joe Sixpack and the rest of the general population only know the phrase "spyware". I'd venture to say that more people call adware "spyware", simply because it sounds more ominous, allowing companies selling "spyware" removers to make more money.

Posted by: An Additional Correction | October 11, 2005 8:58 PM | Report abuse

I believe Spyware is software that is installed. That monitors and reports back. Hince, spying. A process that I equate to as installing a virus or trojion horse.

Adware, just downloads advertisments and displays on the screen. This is more like MSN with its "MSN Today" Option, and built in banner ads.

Posted by: Moreover | October 11, 2005 9:03 PM | Report abuse

All of that crap is dumped into the 'spyware' category, regardless of being adware, malware, spyware etc.

It doesn't matter what the technical definition is; majority rules.

This situation is very much akin to the bastardization of the 'hacker'.

Posted by: Correction of your correction | October 11, 2005 9:29 PM | Report abuse

way to pick-nits, folks

Posted by: Good For you | October 11, 2005 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Adware is spyware, for all intents and purposes.

If something is serving you ads, it's making web connections to a foreign server from your computer to get them. At the very least it's exposing your IP address to some site you didn't ask to visit.

Obviously, the software may choose only to serve ads, and not send any personal info it digs up on your computer back to the ad server.

But the computer user doesn have, in general, any way of knowing whether or not personal info is being sent without logging the outgoing packets, which no normal user would do. So, to be safe, a user is better off regarding adware as spyware.

Posted by: Steve | October 12, 2005 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Use linux.

Posted by: toogent | October 12, 2005 12:57 AM | Report abuse

aw look the kid with the coodies is trying to fit in by washing his hands, but the smell is still there?

Posted by: Jesse | October 12, 2005 1:02 AM | Report abuse

All those comments sound like flamming, go get real info first !

Posted by: :) | October 12, 2005 1:34 AM | Report abuse

I hope they don't do away with IST, because it's keeps me busy making $$$ fixing the crap!

Posted by: Darn it | October 12, 2005 2:19 AM | Report abuse

oh a fake factory scent is preferred to cover up the smell, perhaps "essence a la gates" ©1995 still stinkin. (rich)

"We have chosen to switch to free open source software in brazil, microsoft works in ways similar to drug dealers" - Brazil's president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Posted by: toogent | October 12, 2005 5:40 AM | Report abuse

The only reason they actually comply is because CDT is professing "violent" self defense approach and actually is investigating options on attacking 180S back. Which is pretty darn neat if you ask me. There are tons of way of crippling 180S with their idiotic ASP.NET driven pile of crap sites.

Posted by: T | October 12, 2005 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Being the one that wrote the distribution software used by CDT (Zango Canada since they were bought by 180s), I know there are tons of way to cripple their system. Fortunatly, I've moved away from that industry since then.

All being said, I wouldn't worry about 180s much as they will probably die in 2-3 years. Thats because they're trying to be legit and even though its a good thing for all of us, its a very bad thing for them as their revenue has been going down ever since.

Posted by: LOL | October 12, 2005 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Brian Krebs, please do us all a big favor and get your facts straight before writing a full article !
Do your researches, do your homeworks. Know the real story behind 180 and their confused mind !
Don't base your facts only on what 180 tells you ! This is not a game nor a bedtime story.

Posted by: Don't be fooled | October 12, 2005 12:33 PM | Report abuse

180solutions software has been shown to install without consent. It then transmits (to its "home" controlling servers) detailed information about the web pages users visit.

Tracking where you go online, without your permission. If that doesn't earn the name "spyware," what does?

References:

For nonconsensual installations: http://www.benedelman.org/news/111804-1.html , http://www.benedelman.org/news/101005-1.html

For tracking what web sites users visit: http://www.benedelman.org/spyware/180-affiliates/#methodology (see yellow highlighting)

Posted by: Ben Edelman | October 12, 2005 2:22 PM | Report abuse

format c:

Posted by: meh | October 12, 2005 3:22 PM | Report abuse

format c:

Posted by: meh | October 12, 2005 3:26 PM | Report abuse

180solutions software has been shown to install without consent. It then transmits (to its "home" controlling servers) detailed information about the web pages users visit.

Tracking where you go online, without your permission. If that doesn't earn the name "spyware," what does?

References:

For nonconsensual installations: http://www.benedelman.org/news/111804-1.html , http://www.benedelman.org/news/101005-1.html

For tracking what web sites users visit: http://www.benedelman.org/spyware/180-affiliates/#methodology (see yellow highlighting)

Posted by: Ben Edelman | October 12, 2005 8:19 PM | Report abuse

I love LOL's post. Hmmm, how would you like to have been involved in writing scumware when you were younger. How would you ever live with yourself.

Anyway I agree that 180's business model is threatened by their attempts to comply with pending legislation at the federal level. If a company truly revealed what their shlockware did they would lose market share. LOL gives them 2-3 years. I give them less than 1 year.

Stiennon www.threatchaos.com

Posted by: Stiennon | October 12, 2005 10:25 PM | Report abuse

"180Solutions Inc., one of the largest purveyors of ad-serving software (labeled by some as "spyware")"

Everyone calls it spyware... I mean who says:

"Oh damn my computers infected with ad-serving software again..."

Posted by: Sand monkey | October 27, 2005 5:34 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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