I had all intentions of finishing the "spyware tricks' series but I got distracted this evening by adware. After reading Sunbeltblog's description of the Zango Search Assistant installation, I had to try it myself. Zango Search Assistant is 180solutions new version of the 180search Assistant. My experience was essentially the same as described on Sunbeltblog. Alex Eckelberry calls the installation, which uses an active X control, "intrusive and confusing". I agree that the active X warning box is confusing due to the text "Website Access". The EULA lacks a clear descriptions what the user is going to experience, i.e., pop ups along with a toolbar.
Another interesting and, in my opinion, puzzling, component of the installation is a device driver, ide210201.vxd, which has been labeled as malicious by some antivirus vendors. Apparently its function in Zango Search Assistant is unknown at present. The file is mentioned at doxdesk.com as a component of SearchRevelancy, an application related to CDT Inc. 180solutions acquired CDT, Inc.earlier this year, reportedly in another attempt to "clean up its distribution channels". A later note on Sunbeltblog states the file ide210201.vxd is installed by MediaGateway, also installed via active X.
It's also noted that 180solutions is "fiercely defending" the installation" and may be submitting their own comments tomorrow. I'll reserve my additional comments until we see what 180solutions says. I'll finish the Spyware tricks series tomorrow as well.
Sept. 22 follow up: Sunbeltblog has posted a response from 180solutions. Sean Sundwall says he agrees that active X installations can be problematic, but they continue to use them because it's what some of their partners request. He mentions the inherent limitations of active X "imposed by Microsoft". He defends the EULA as "one of the shortest and easiest to understand in the software industry" and he concludes with this statement. "We feel like this represents a fair, honest and transparent installation experience."
The active X warning box for the Zango Search Assistant download is worded "Website Access - Click YES if you agree to the [...], click YES TO ACCESS THIS WEBSITE". It says "distributed by Zango". To me, that verbiage is misleading because it implies that one must agree to see the content of the site. I was able to access the site and view a number of pages without agreeing to the download.