180solutions rebuttal

Today has been quiet in the 180solutions news department. There are still a few points to be made from the last 2 days, so here goes. In yesterday’s talkbacks, Mr. Sundwall of 180solutions wrote...

Today has been quiet in the 180solutions news department. There are still a few points to be made from the last 2 days, so here goes. In yesterday's talkbacks, Mr. Sundwall of 180solutions wrote:

Suzi. Please visit our blog, read this entry and answer the questions. http://blog.180solutions.com/PermaLink,guid,0b685813-78a3-4c82-a565-7afc5df011f8.aspx

Why is it you and the other fanatics have such a different standard for 180solutions when it comes to content?

The post at 180's blog is all about zealots and fanatics and asks why we (the fanatics) can't change our minds.  It also says:

We are not in the business of censoring content so that only the universally popular content gets seen. We leave that job up to the big portal sites. While we welcome wildly popular content, we follow the Ebay (link), and Amazon (link) model: provide access to content, that as weird or offensive as it might be (think of the Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich) to "mainstream" people, it is sought by some group of people out there.

We don’t know what kind of content our fanatical friends prefer, but we’re pretty sure that we have something they like. All they have to do is download Zango.

Well, let's see. Ebay and Amazon don't download software to people's machines for one thing.  Ebay and Amazon don't get installed or install anything on people's computers without consent.  The blog author's reasoning is similar to the "shit happens" excuse that Eric Howes adeptly refuted on SpywareWarrior in response to 180 CEO Keith Smith's email to me about the installation at the crack site. When I was a kid and used the "all the other kids' parents are letting them do it" excuse, my mother didn't buy it and neither do I now. My mother also taught me that people are judged by the company they keep, so if 180 is going to sponsor racist sites, porn sites and so on, they should be prepared for the revulsion many people have for that type of content.

Regarding changing our minds, I'm not sure what Sundwall thinks we should be changing our minds about.  About racist content?  About pornography?  Or about adware companies in general?  Chris Boyd, aka Paperghost, responded to the excuse that racist content is ok because some people like it. Suggested reading here. Boyd also questions the value proposition of comedic racism and notes that 180's own affiliate agreement precludes the use of 180's software on any affiliate site that is "defamatory, libelous, offensive, slanderous or offensive". The word "offensive" is mentioned twice but the question is "offensive to whom"?

Is it possible for us fanatics to change our minds about 180solutions or about adware and adware companies in general?  First of all, let's note that 180 has not given us any reason to change our minds thus far.  We've seen the PR, we've seen the talk about the new technology, but we've continued to see non-consensual installations from questionable sites.  We've seen 180 make a lot of excuses and try to divert our attention from the real issues.  Nothing I've seen yet has changed my mind about 180solutions. About adware and adware companies in general, I'd ask Mr. Sundwall if he's seen us complaining about Claria recently?  Not much.  Or complaining about WhenU?  Not really.  In fact, WhenU has said "WhenU has earned praise from many of its harshest critics for having implemented meaningful improvements to our products and practices [...]" and listed quotes from this blog, from Paperghost's blog and from a number of news articles that include statements by Alex Eckelberry of Sunbelt and Eric Howes.

"[WhenU has] done a better job of cleaning up their products and distribution networks - and done it faster, according to Sunbelt Software president Alex Ecklberry."

"[Researcher Eric] Howes contrasted 180solutions with New York-based WhenU... 'Why don't they just do what WhenU did,' he said."

Indeed, we can change our minds and opinions, but we need hard evidence not just hot air. And by the way, Mr. Sundwall, I have downloaded several of your apps from the Zango site.  I have no quarrel with your games and such, but I haven't seen anything yet that I thought was a good enough value proposition to tolerate pop-ups. I don't have a quarrel with advertising in general but I don't rely on it for making purchasing decisions either. Our problems with your company are in the distribution methods, non-consensual installations, etc. and your failure thus far to address the problems in any way that demonstrates consistent results. 

One question that I would ask 180 is this -- how do your advertisers feel about the fact that you don't enforce your own rules of what is unacceptable? You post your rules of conduct and lead your advertisers to believe that your rules are enforced, when, in fact, they are not.  Your failure to abide by your own rules could have serious consequences. And what was that about having a double standard?

Related links:

DrTipsBlog on 180 Solutions Fixes Their Security

In an article posted at News.com, 180 Solutions announced that they have upgraded their security to keep some of their distributors from forcing their crappy software on users.

This is so funny, it’s taken me a couple hours to actually write this. First, if they have distributors who are forcing this stuff on users computers, then you get rid of the distributors, you fix your distribution model, it would be so easy for them to figure out who is doing this stuff. If they would police their affiliates, it would fix a lot of OUR problems.

For the technical readers an analysis of the new 180 Seekmo Search Assistant here by Mike Burgess, MS Security MVP. Compare that to Burgess' recent analysis of the Zango Search Assistant here. Burgess wonders about some of the software's behavior:

180Solutions Privacy Policy states:
Search Assistant Software. By installing the Search Assistant Software, you grant permission for 180 to periodically collect certain information (key words, including portions of website addresses or URL's, from the websites you visit) and upload this information to our servers so that we may display targeted websites to you while you are connected to the Internet.

But do you have to do this in the middle of my e-mail account? You'd think they would have built a exclusion list for these situations to avoid the impropriety of invading ... oops ... "periodically collect certain information" now I can't say for sure what they are collecting, but this make me really nervous.

The next prompt I got from Seekmo pop-up page "Azoogle" (see above image - cache2.gif) "Do you want to allow this page to paste information from your Clipboard?" Hell NO! I do not want to allow that ... but you can not get out of the prompt with out killing the page in Task Manager. For a company that prides itself in their Privacy Policy, I have to wonder why a user would ever get that prompt?

Mr. Sundwall, if you read this perhaps you could answer that question for us.

Tomorrow I'll get back to rootkits.