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Inside an Adware Company 244

Posted by michael
from the ethically-challenged dept.
Haikster writes "Brad Stone of Newsweek wrote a great article exposing DirectRevenue which is actually a combination of the old Dash guys with IPInsight, abetterinternet, offeroptimizer and blackstonemedia and the others... it's a bit lengthy but a great read."
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Inside an Adware Company

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  • by ravenspear (756059) on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:43PM (#11057213)
    This is good because it is completely amazing to me how the adware/spyware problem has received very little coverage in the media, certainly orders of magnitude less than the spam problem. We have seen many stories on /. over the last few weeks about how millions of Windows boxes are so infested with spyware that they are basically unusable, and yet most non-technical people still seem ambivalent.

    If the same amount of effort currently used to fight spam is not applied to the spyware/adware situation, it will get just as bad if not worse than the spam problem.

    As intrusive and annoying as spam is, at least it's influence doesn't extends past your email client. Spyware has the potential to totally screw up machines that do important tasks, which could be far more harmful.
  • by OAB_X (818333) on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:46PM (#11057236)
    New steps to uninstall:

    Add Remove programs -> spyware program -> uninstall window -> im sure i want to uninstall -> i dont want to reconcider -> i dont want to provide a reason for uninstalling -> im still really sure i want to uninstall -> yes i know some features maybe deactivated -> i dont want to install any companion programs -> i dont want to have programs from your sponsors installed either -> i dont want to have more msn smilies -> why do i need to go to a website to uninstall? -> i still want to uninsall reason: i hate spyware -> uninstall -> please wait while you download the uninstaller -> program uninstalled successfully, 5 more programs installed by uninstaller
  • Re:I'm a newb (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nkh (750837) <exochicken@nOSPAm.gmail.com> on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:49PM (#11057260) Journal
    The article explains that you don't need Adaware and other anti-spyware programs anymore on Windows, just go to http://www.mypctuneup.com/ [mypctuneup.com] and it will remove your spywares for free! I wish I still had a Windows machine to see how much adwares this web site would install...
  • I hate malware. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:51PM (#11057272)
    I hate adware, and what we need to invent is some sort of adware realtime blacklist that contains all the IP addresses of adware companies. Then, all legitimate users could set up their firewall to disable access to and from any of these IP addresses. Then, the ISPs could completely disable access, and that would drastically cut down on the success of these illegitimate ventures.

    Doing so could scare the spam authors, malware authors, virus authors, worm authors, spyware authors, and other illegitimate software authors into compliance with global IP standards, which will facilitate the streamlining of compelling enterprise solutions by content providers and emerging stewards of innovative technologies.

    (If you didn't get the above then you need to do some critical thinking. It is composed in four layers and contains 12 hidden messages, 4 double meanings, and 9 psychological facts.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:51PM (#11057275)
    Most importantly, the new law will make sure consumers can easily delete unwanted adware.

    "By using our software, you agree not to remove our adware. We will occasionally scan your computer for its presence, and push an installation, which you cannot abort except by powering down your PC. This installation is already initiated by Our software, and you authorize it in full yadda yadda yadda..."

    Surreptisoft standard licence agreement Section 84 Clause C subclause q paragraph 196
  • by ExtremeGoatse! (778447) on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:52PM (#11057282) Homepage Journal
    I work for a "banner ad" firm which will remain nameless for obvious reasons. Despite our "in your face" tactics, tracking cookies, and the sneaky ActiveX exploit installs, the programmers really are just regular people. The group of guys I work with are a lot of fun to be around and are extremely knowledgable in the field. Some people probably think we get a kick out of hijacking some poor guy's web browser, but seriously, we've all got a family to feed. In this day and time, with the programming jobs being sent overseas, I can't be picky anymore. I wish I could work some place where I spend my days programming to cure cancer, but I've got to take what I can get until the economy picks up! So go easy on me fellas, I'm just a joe blow programmer like you.
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:55PM (#11057297) Homepage Journal
    We constantly have a nightmare about people on our network installing spyware (we're half green suit/half civilian). Some day, some enterprising young person will create spyware with a key logger phoning home passwords galore. We already had a problem with HotBar clogging our pipe.

    Admittedly we are't suppoed to be discussing classified information but we deal with politically sensitive stuff all the time.
  • Stupid names (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:01PM (#11057325)
    Why is it that adware companies always come up with incredibly stupid names for themselves?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:11PM (#11057379)
    Yeah, it is. And I hate it. I hate having to take people's money to clean this shit off their computers; I would rather be deploying servers or upgrading home PCs for the holidays. But I'm not.

    People get infected so easily because the just don't understand. Your average joe doesn't know the difference between virii and spyware; They don't understand that Norton Antivirus doesn't block this stuff too ( though they're starting to try ); They don't realize that IE's swiss cheese-like security is what allows most of this stuff on their system. While I spend a lot of my time cleaning spyware of my customer's computers, I also try to take the time to educate them. I show them the Adaware and Spybot icons. I run through them once with the customer to make sure they understand how to perform updates. I explain the new Firefox icon and how they should always always always use it, unless the site refuses to load without IE. I explain why Norton didn't stop it, and why the firewall didn't help. Folks just hear a lot of buzzwords like these and they just store the basic meme "Firewall=Safe" or "Antivirus=No Infection".

    It shouldn't have to be this way. But it is, and I'm profiting from it. That makes me feel dirty in a way, even though I'm not the asshole clogging up the works.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:23PM (#11057428)
    You are not a programmer like me. You have no ethics or morals, and I don't care for your "have to feed my family" BS. Your morals are worth nothing if you only have them when the economy is good!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:27PM (#11057446)
    Consumer advocates familiar with the company charge that Direct Revenue has engaged in an array of unethical practices: it secretly installs its software onto computers, designs its adware so that it reinstalls after users delete it and has changed its name so often that frustrated users can't find the company to complain.

    ...is if their business model includes such practices, how do they get around many states anti-hacking laws? In several states it is a felony computer crime to install software onto people's computers without permission. Most Adware companies get around this by a "click-through" license but it was not mentioned in the article if Direct Revenue uses such.

    Even with a click-through license I would love to hear them explain to a judge their justification for automatic reinstallation after a user deletes it.

  • Kill em all (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bogie (31020) on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:32PM (#11057471) Journal
    I don't care if God sorts them out.

    As I type this I'm about to finally sit down for a movie after spending hours on yet on spyware/adware infested PC. I'm just tired of it. As much as I hate those scumbags who put out adware etc I have to once again question. What the fuck was Microsoft thinking waiting until summer 2004 to deal with the problem? Oh and the other 50% of Windows users on this planet who are not running XP with SP2? They're just as screwed now as they were before.
  • Talk, talk, talk. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BillX (307153) on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:37PM (#11057509) Homepage
    "Abram [Direct Revenue] recently backed that claim with a letter to Congressman Joe Barton of Texas urging passage of H.R. 2929, "The Spy Act," a bill that would require adware companies to get explicit permission from users to place software onto their machines and to allow users to easily uninstall those programs. Abram says his company and the industry have not met this goal yet, but they are moving in the right direction."

    Really, does it take more effort to write a letter to a congressman, or to add one sentence to the beginning of an EULA? Or to code, for that matter? Here guys, let's make life easy on you:

    /* Super secret proprietary adware code - please don't steal and copy into your own software */

    wantmalware=Application->MessageBox("I would like to spy on you, slow your PC and pop ads in your face all day long. Is this OK?", NULL, MB_YESNO);

    My poor little fingers, they are cramping up already.
  • give me a break (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tempny (602740) on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:54PM (#11057576)
    According to the article, these companies are "working" on making their glorified viruses less intrusive and easy to uninstall. Amazingly, the article never points out just how bullshit this is. Anyone who has ever worked on commercial software knows that it is trivial to let the user remove your program (automated installshield or something of the sort). Even if you don't want to bother with that, the user should always be able to just kill the process and delete the executables. However, it's certainly not easy to actively prevent the user from stopping or removing your software, and especially to automatically and invisibly reinstall upon removal. Yet these companies are "working" on making their programs removable? How stupid do they think we are?
  • by rosie_bhjp (40538) on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:59PM (#11057595) Homepage
    It's a troll account.
  • by mrbcs (737902) on Friday December 10, 2004 @10:22PM (#11057678)
    Same here though I don't feel dirty doing it.. I'm doing them a favour. Better to pay me to clean up their machine than to go and buy a new one because of software issues.

    Most times I've only had to see people once. It's very disheartening though, when two weeks later, the same customer comes back, riddled with viruses and spyware.

    Me: "where's the programs I installed? Sygate? Ad-aware? Avg?"

    Customer: "umm, I guess we uninstalled them.. kazaa wasn't working right."

    Me: "fine, $60, we'll try again."

    I don't think I'm long for this game anymore. Users can be very draining on your spirit. Really bugs me that I've had no problems with my 10 machines in 7 years or so.

  • by CrazyDuke (529195) on Friday December 10, 2004 @10:50PM (#11057771)
    You forgot "-> spyware program silently reinstalls itself on next boot"
  • by tntguy (516721) * on Friday December 10, 2004 @11:34PM (#11057979)
    What do you want?
  • by sconeu (64226) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @01:49AM (#11058504) Homepage Journal
    Which is why Poindexter tried to create the "Unclassified but Sensitive" security level.
  • by ZonaldRumzfeld (826828) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @06:25AM (#11059202)
    I say make em. Is it evil? maybe. The more spy/malware on the net, the more ways people will develop to counter all the crapware, be more aware of where they visit, and make sure the right tools are being used.

    The more the community knows about exploits, the better, instead of having company X knowing a secret exploit that no one even knows about for years at a time and using it to there advantage.

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