Are Anti-Spyware Vendors Selling Out?
AdwareReport Comments: Lavasoft and PestPatrol, two leading anti-spyware vendors, have followed Aluria's lead in removing WhenU from their detection lists. By most accounts (see our coverage of the WhenU debate), WhenU has transformed themselves from a seedy spyware company to a reputable ad-supported software vendor. Yet some "unbiased" spyware commentators continue to fuel the debate and make unfounded accusations that these companies are "selling out".
Questions surround Lavasoft and WhenU
Written by Karl Bode
As mentioned yesterday, both Lavasoft and PestPatrol have stopped detecting WhenU Adware, without any public announcement concerning the changes. The decision immediately led many to believe both companies had followed the path of Aluria - an anti-spyware firm that weakened detection criteria after striking a marketing agreement with WhenU.
After considerable pressure was applied to the company in their forums, they announced last night their detection criteria had been changed, but not because of any deal with WhenU.
"First and foremost, Lavasoft does not have collaborations with any company that has or will have content detected by Ad-Aware. WhenU was indeed removed from our database by research in the last definition file. This was due to WhenU not scoring more than 2 TAC points at the time. In case it turns out that the removal was incorrect, WhenU will naturally be reintroduced to the database."
Lavasoft's threat assessment chart (TAC) can be found here. The chart ranks irritation-ware on a number of criteria; whether it has a functional uninstaller, operates in stealth, auto-updates without user permission, etc.
The problem arises when you note that while Lavasoft and PestPatrol have apparently decided to delist WhenU applications, other anti-spyware vendors have not. Even Aluria, who has apparently been willing to compromise security for cash, marks WhenU as a threat via their new Security Center 4.0.
Lavasoft's response raises more questions than it answers.
Is WhenU really improving the seedier aspects of their applications, or are they simply engaged in a massive public relations campaign? Both?
And why the sudden removal of WhenU? Why doesn't, as one of our regulars asks, Lavasoft require vendors with seedy reputations like WhenU to "maintain a below threshold TAC score over a period of several consecutive months?"
Many anti-spyware companies have been approached by the vendors to play nice, and some are refusing. Wayne Porter, the CEO of anti-spyware company Xblock, recently noted XBlock was approached by the two largest spyware companies (he doesn't specify which) to establish a "partnership".
"In one pitch the offer was simply increased exposure via a co-branded solution," Porter explains on his website. "In the other request the software would be offered for free and there would be a revenue share on the advertising revenue generated."
Porter's team said no, because, as he puts it: "the line is already blurry enough without companies embracing the very problems they are supposed to be solving."
And that's the rub.
In a quest to be seen as legitimate and fend off future anti-ad/spyware laws, Adware vendors are now joining anti-spyware associations, luring anti-spyware vendors to weaken detection criteria, and eroding consumer trust that these products will keep their PC's free of irritation-ware.
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