TechTalk & Personal Computing Guide


TechTalk & Personal Computing Guide
TechTalk & Personal Computing Guide

Anti-adware apps reverse course on WhenU

cdesai12 Goldie

Joined: 18 September 2004
Posts: 1900

Posted: 26 February 2005 at 11:25am | IP Logged
Anti-adware apps reverse course on WhenU

This one cease-and-desist outbreak might not be so important if it weren't for the fact that a few anti-adware programs mysteriously removed some other adware programs from their detection lists recently.

Ad-Aware and Pest Patrol, an anti-adware program from Computer Associates, raised security experts' hackles this month when the two utilities quietly delisted WhenU software. WhenU distributes, among other things, Save.exe, which and other rating systems report to be adware.

Eric Howes that WhenU was inexplicably missing from Ad-Aware's Feb. 5 update file. According to Howes, Pest Patrol also stopped identifying WhenU around the same time. Both companies, furthermore, stopped listing WhenU in their online databases of adware.

As if this didn't anger security experts enough, the two anti-adware companies said nothing about the changes in their regular user notifications of additions and deletions to their databases. Howes says users received no notice of the shifts, causing all sorts of suspicions to fly.

In a on a Lavasoft forum, employee Chris Fry confirmed on Feb. 15, "WhenU was indeed removed from our database by research in the last definition file. This was due to WhenU not scoring more than 2 TAC points at the time. In case it turns out that the removal was incorrect, WhenU will naturally be reintroduced to the database."

"TAC points" are behaviors listed in Lavasoft's so-called . The company considers a program that exhibits three or more of these behaviors to be a risk to PC users and eligible to be removed by Ad-Aware.

Surprisingly, an adware program can both display ads as its primary function (gaining one TAC point) and have no apparent way to uninstall it (another point) and still fall below Ad-Aware's three-point threshold. In my opinion, any one "TAC point" should be enough to empower a PC user to remove such a program.

The uproar among Ad-Aware users over the change grew so furious that Lavasoft has been forced to post a for WhenU. Michael Wood, a Lavasoft forum administrator, has also that the company is going to re-evaluate its entire threat-assessment scoring system.

For its part, PestPatrol restored seven variants of WhenU software, including Save.exe, to its detection database on Feb. 17, according to the company's . (This page may soon be updated, making the listing for update 05021721 inaccessible, when the next Pest Patrol update comes out.)

All this activity is enough to make your head spin. What's obvious is that there's big money at stake now for companies who think it's fine to install software on users' PCs to display ads. The anti-adware battles are only beginning.

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