Badware Outed

USA TODAY: Here’s a new way to attack spyware: embarrass its purveyors.
A free website ( plans to provide a list of programs that contain spyware and other malicious software. It will also identify companies that develop the programs and distribute them on the Internet.
Consumers can then decide if a program is safe to download.
“For too long, these companies have been able to hide in the shadows of the Internet,” says John Palfrey, who heads the Berkman Center of Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and is spearheading the project. “What we’re after is a more accountable Internet.”
The initiative is being run by Harvard and the Oxford Institute and is backed by high-tech heavyweights including Google and Sun Microsystems. Consumer Reports’ WebWatch is serving as a special adviser.
Spyware invades PCs without users’ knowledge when they download applications such as music file-sharing programs or screen savers, or visit certain websites. Often, spyware tracks Web-surfing habits and bombards victims with related pop-up ads. More nefarious versions monitor keystrokes to steal Social Security numbers or passwords for identity theft.
Also on the hit list of the StopBadware coalition are malicious “adware” programs that serve up onslaughts of pop-up ads or software that contains hidden viruses and worms.
At least 60% of home PCs are infected with one or more of these “badware” programs, says Forrester Research analyst Natalie Lambert.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.