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Tough Questions and Bad Behavior

by Wayne Porter

Many users ask us how we make determinations on what companies to list as malware, adware or spyware. Many of our decisions are based on feedback from users like yourself who have experienced a myriad of problems this type of intrusive software can cause.

In general we ask the following questions when analyzing a program for inclusion into the database.

a) Does the program log system activity without informing the user?

b) Does the application have a confusing or legalese laden EULA that is difficult for users to understand?

c) Does the EULA use jargon that is not understand by the end-user. For example calling pop-ups ?interstitials? or ?daughter consoles?.

d) Does the application use drive-by download techniques for distribution?

e) Does the application attempt to capitalize on known or unknown security holes for propagation?

f) Have we received a significant number of consumer complaints about it in our mailbox or on popular technical message boards?

g) Does the application attempt to hi-jack the users home page or redirect search activity without permission?

h) Are there complaints or evidence of an application surreptitiously targeting anti-spyware applications? (i.e. such as our own technology)

i) Does the application employ stealth tactics like renaming their program to a common windows file name, evading removal, or general polymorphic features

j) Does the program grossly interfere with the computer?s function if removed by brute force? i.e. b reaking the LSP stack

k) Is the application obviously a repurposed Trojan horse rebuilt for commercial sale?

l) Does the application attempt to use ?trickler programs? to reinstall the application after it has been removed by the user

m) Does the application attempt to "extort" the user by forcing them to pay a fee to remove the program?

o) Do we have documentation the application uses deceptive advertising, gross use of spam and/or condone spam by affiliates?

These are only a few of the criteria that we use when analyzing programs for the database. Hopefully through education, proactive consumer response and the current grass roots movement software authors will come to realize that the ethical road is the better road to travel. Consumers will appreciate them in the long run and a healthy balance between profit and good behavior can be achieved. Not all advertising is bad, it generates revenue for software authors who need to eat, but short-term profits at any cost is a poor strategy to embrace for companies who want to earn consumer trust and remain long-term.

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