StopBadware.org, the newest anti-spyware group on the scene, promised to name the bad guys and today they issued the first set of reports on 4 badware pushers that consumers should avoid. StopBadware reported on 4 applications: Kazaa, SpyAxe, Waterfalls 3, and MediaPipe. Each report details the objectionable behavior of the application.
For Kazaa, a popular p2p file sharing application, StopBadware found that it claims to have no spyware, but, in fact, bundles adware including BestOffersNetwork (formerly known as DirectRevenue), TopSearch, AltNet Peer Points Manager and Cydoor. Kazaa also makes system changes that are not properly disclosed to the user.
SpyAxe was found to interfere with computer use by failing to uninstall the executable and requiring multiple steps to exit the application. It launches on reboot and automatically scans the computer, then nags the user to purchase the program. The behavior is not disclosed during installation.
Waterfalls 3 is a screensaver application from Freeze.com. Waterfalls 3 bundles software including a trojan related to New.net, Webhancer, (usually considered spyware) and adware apps SaveNow, New.net, Yak Community Client, the Crunch Bar, and Desktop Weather. The report says the adware installations are optional and the user can choose not to install the adware.
MediaPipe advertises itself at Movieland.com as Movieland Download Manger. The StopBadware report says MediaPipe reserves the right to continue charging the user after uninstallation and fails to uninstall properly. It deceptively installs a p2p file sharing app and a payment system.
I'd certainly agree that these four apps deserve the title badware. But is the bad behavior of these four software applications really new? Are these reports news?
People in the anti-spyware community have warned users about Kazaa, along with other p2p apps, for several years now, since 2001 - 2002 when I first got involved with spyware. See a forum post with my own comments from 2002 warning about Kazaa here. A website called iMilly.com asked in 2002 "Is Kazaa Spyware?" iMilly.com answered "Oh my, YES!". The iMilly page also discusses Kazaa's EULA and privacy statement. Kazaa was owned by Brilliant Digital Entertainment at that time and is now owned by Sharman Networks, but not much has changed over four years in regard to Kazaa's badware ways. More recently, in 2005, Ben Edelman researched and documented the behavior of a number of p2p apps. Ben's detailed analysis of Kazaa here.
SpyAxe is Badware -- with a capital "B". Most definitely so. But is this news? SpyAxe was number one on my top 10 rogue anti-spyware of 2005 list. SpyAxe has been the subject of thousands of complaints on forums, written about in scores of blogs, and there are several tutorials on the web to help afflicted users remove SpyAxe using a free tool written by a member of the anti-spyware community. The StopBadware report failed to mention that SpyAxe is most often found to be installed by a trojan without notice/consent through exploits.
Freeze.com has long been known to bundler adware/spyware with its so-called free screensavers. The domain is on a number of block lists and HOSTS files. Just for fun I downloaded the same screensaver that StopBadware named, Waterfalls 3. I was unable to complete the installation because my unpatched XP virtual machine apparently was lacking a component needed, but I still managed to get 5 new desktop icons. Free goodies like wallpaper, screensavers and smileys have a long standing reputation for bundling adware/spyware.
I was not familiar with MediaPipe, and based on the StopBadware report, I'll agree that it deserves the badware label. I did find some complaints on the web about the company. At Ripoffreport.com, a user posted complaints about the company and software. Someone claiming to be a representative of the company responded and an interesting dialogue followed. An article on ConsumerAffairs.com states that Movieland denies charges of putting spyware on consumers' computers and actually threatened ConsumerAffairs.com, demanding the article be removed or retracted. I wonder if MediaTime/Movieland will threaten StopBadware.org and its big corporate sponsors, Google, Lonovo and Sun Microsystems. *That* would be interesting!