Just wanted to post a quick comment on those damn third parties that companies like Direct Revenue and Zango/180solutions always seem to blame.
If it wasn’t for those third parties they blame, no one would have their crapware/adware installed on their pc’s, and these companies know it, that is why they use them. Let others do it, and blame them when they get caught. Lather, Rinse and Repeat. It’s win win for adware companies, they get their “software” installed on millions of pc’s and make boatloads of money doing it, all the while blaming these damn third parties. Apparently it has worked very well for Direct Revenue, after bringing in 23 million by installing their adware on millions of computers using security holes, drive by downloads and however else they could get it installed, they have just hit with a fine from the FTC for 1.5 million dollars.
According to the FTC’s charges, Direct Revenue and its affiliates installed adware, including programs that produced pop-up ads, on users’ machines without properly disclosing what the software would do. In some cases, Direct Revenue affiliates exploited browser security flaws to install adware. The result, said the FTC, was “unfair and deceptive methods to download adware onto consumers’ computers and then obstruct them from removing it.”
Under the agreement, New York-based Direct Revenue will pay $1.5 million as “ill-gotten gains.” The marketing company is also barred from delivering ads to anyone who installed its software before Oct. 1, 2005, unless they respond to specific opt-in messages.
“Direct Revenue is pleased with today’s settlement,” the company said in a brief statement posted to its Web site. Source: Adware maker settles with FTC for $1.5M
Of course they are pleased with the deal, who wouldn’t be happy they could make over 20 million after fines. Jon Leibowitz criticized the size of the settlement, glad someone did, he said in his dissent that he would rather go to trial and risk losing than allow these losers to line their pockets with 20 million. We still have some hope that the State of New York will do the right thing and hit them really hard.
Oh, and all of those new articles talking about the settlement that talk about it being popup ads, like this one from the LATimes, Marketer behind pop-up ads to pay $1.5-million penalty, really do the whole thing a dis-service, in my opinion.
Thought I would do a wrap-up of today?s spyware and adware stories, combine all of these slack jaws in one post of kicking their ass goodness. Ben Edelman posted his findings on Zango today, and surprise, surprise, Zango is still not compliant with the FTC requirements of the settlement. But who really thought they would be, I mean, the business model is eventually going to go away, if merchants who advertise through spyware or adware would actually start to care about their customers, and affiliates who actually force this stuff on users computers would get cut off by Google and other search engines, like normal webmasters do all the time, the money would dry up and they would blow away.
Ben and Eric Howes did all the testing this month, so this is not old stuff, this is stuff they found in about ten hours of work, something any merchant or official could find by just surfing some of these sites. Things like not having proper disclosure, or showing the disclosure after installation, or no disclosure whatsoever, legacy programs without the proper installation or un-installation tools, deceptive practices leading to installs and unlabeled advertising, all of which violate the terms of the settlement with the FTC.
More broadly, we believe intensive ongoing monitoring will be required to assure that Zango actually complies with the settlement. We have spent 3+ years following Zango’s repeated promises of “reform,” and we have first-hand experience with the wide variety of techniques Zango and its partners have used to place software onto users’ PCs. Testing these methods requires more than black-letter contracts and agreements; it requires hands-on testing of actual infected PCs and the scores of diverse infection mechanisms Zango’s partners devise. To assure that Zango actually complies with the agreement, we think the FTC will need to allocate its investigatory resources accordingly. We’ve spent approximately roughly 10 hours on the investigations leading to the results above, and we’ve uncovered these examples as well as various others. With dozens or hundreds of hours, we think we could find many more surviving Zango installations in violation of the proposed settlement’s requirements. We think the FTC ought to find these installations, or require that Zango do so, and then ought to see that the associated files are entirely removed from the web. Source: Ben Edleman
Zango doesn’t care, I believe everything they do is just to delay the inevitable and to soak up more money while they still can, if the fines imposed in the future are anything like this last one, then they will have plenty of money left to retire on I am sure, or to start some other shady means of making money. Nothing they say comes true, as far as I have seen, in their reply to the settlement they have said they have been compliant since January 1, 2006, which, as you can see from this article is not true at all. The FTC needs to take a look for themselves, it’s out there and is sure easy to find.
Speaking of the FTC, they announced last week that a U.S. district court has shut down a Web operation that is accused of secretly loading spyware and other malevolent software onto millions of computers after promising users free screen savers and video files. Now where have we heard of this before?
The FTC accused ERG Ventures and an affiliate with tricking consumers into downloading a piece of spyware called Media Motor, which installs itself and downloads other malware.
The malware was difficult for consumers to remove, the FTC said. The malware installed by Media Motor:
- Changed consumers’ home pages
- Added difficult-to-remove toolbars that display disruptive pop-up ads in consumers’ Internet browsers
- Tracked Internet activity
- Generated disruptive pop-up ads that were occasionally sexually explicit
- Added advertising icons to consumers’ Windows desktop
- Degraded computer performance
- Disabled antispyware and antivirus software
Source: PC World
the complaint names ERG Ventures, doing business as ERG Ventures LLC2, Media Motor, Joysticksavers.com, and PrivateinPublic.com, and its principal operators, Elliott S. Cameron, Robert A. Davidson II, and Gary E. Hill, as well as Taylor. They ask that anyone who has had any experience with them to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, looks like it’s going to be another good day for the good guys.
Zango, formerly 180Solutions, and the poster child for denying obvious stuff, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they used unfair and deceptive methods to download adware and obstruct consumers from removing it, in violation of federal law. The settlement bars future drive by installs, and most any other way of forcing this crap on users computers. they must actually provide a way to uninstall the crapware, and requires them to give up $3 million in “ill-gotten gains”, which is straight from the FTC site. I wonder if they actually figured out how much they made in “ill-gotten gains” and why it was only a $3 million dollar fine, they have always been shady, all one has to do is search for their names on Google to see it, and I remember reading they used to have a counter that counted how much money they made that day, so why just $3 million?
Here are some quotes from the agreement,
According to the FTC, Zango often used third parties to install adware on consumers? computers. The adware, including programs named Zango Search Assistant, 180Search Assistant, Seekmo, and n-CASE, monitors consumers? Internet use in order to display targeted pop-up ads. It has been installed on U.S. consumers? computers more than 70 million times and has displayed more than 6.9 billion pop-up ads. The FTC alleges that Zango?s distributors ? third-party affiliates who often contracted with numerous sub-affiliates ? frequently offered consumers free content and software, such as screensavers, peer-to-peer file sharing software, games, and utilities, without disclosing that downloading them would result in installation of the adware. In other instances, Zango?s third-party distributors exploited security vulnerabilities in Web browsers to install the adware via ?drive-by? downloads. As a result, millions of consumers received pop-up ads without knowing why, and had their Internet use monitored without their knowledge.
In addition, the agency alleges that Zango deliberately made it difficult to identify, locate, and remove the adware once it was installed. For example, Zango failed to label its pop-up ads to identify their origin, named its adware files with names resembling those of core systems software, provided uninstall tools that failed to uninstall the adware, gave confusing labels to those uninstall tools, and installed code on consumers? computers that would enable the adware to be reinstalled secretly when consumers attempted to remove it.
The settlement bars Zango from using its adware to communicate with consumers? computers ? either by monitoring consumers? Web surfing activities or delivering pop-up ads ?
without verifying that consumers consented to installation of the adware. It bars Zango, directly or through others, from exploiting security vulnerabilities to download software, and requires that it give clear and prominent disclosures and obtain consumers? express consent before downloading software onto consumers? computers. It requires that Zango identify its ads and establish, implement, and maintain user-friendly mechanisms consumers can use to complain, stop its pop-ups, and uninstall its adware. It also requires that Zango monitor its third-party distributors to assure that its affiliates and their sub-affiliates comply with the FTC order. Finally, Zango will give up $3 million in ill-gotten gains to settle the charges. The settlement contains standard record keeping provisions to allow the FTC to monitor compliance. Source: FTC
I wonder how this will work out. As Hoyt is fond of saying, NOT TOO GOOD! This is more of a moral victory than anything, and it does include a PDF, here, which defines express consent, and it excludes burying the information that the user is getting additional software with their download in the user agreement.
Sunbelt has released the list of ten most insidious spyware apps, something they do every month, as a sales promotion tool, the company publishes a list of active and commonly found spyware. The results are based on the monthly scans performed by Sunbelt’s antispyware product CounterSpy.
DesktopScam will display false warnings that the computer is infected and uses a fake Windows update globe to trick the user into thinking that Microsoft Windows is reporting a spyware infection.
Zango.SearchAssistant opens new browser windows showing Web sites based on the previous websites you visit. The adware will run in the background on a computer and will periodically direct users to other sponsors’ Web sites, allowing users to compare prices between Web sites.
Go here for the rest. I included the number 1 above and I also included Zango, since they seem to think they are some kind of normal software app and that they have never installed without permission.