Site Names and Shames 'Badware' Purveyors

A new organization backed by Sun, Lenovo and Google seeks to shine the spotlight on "badware."

 By Michael Hall | Posted Jan 26, 2006
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Network administrators looking for a security resource to point their users to may have a candidate in a new site designed to name and shame spyware purveyors.

Harvard University's Berkman Center and the Oxford Internet Institute today launched StopBadware.org, a site designed to "spotlight the companies that make millions of dollars by tricking Internet users to download malicious spyware, adware and malware programs they don't want." Google, Lenovo and Sun Microsystems are underwriting the effort, and Consumer Reports WebWatch will act in a pro-bono role as "special consumer adviser."

The new organization sidestepped some of the problems with nomenclature faced by other groups by coining the term "badware" instead of using existing terms such as "malware," "spyware," or "adware."

"We decided to call ourselves StopBadware.org, and emphasize the term badware, because we want to be a 'big tent'. We want to attack all forms of badware, not just software that steals your information (spyware) or software that pops up unexpected ads (deceptive adware)," reads the organization's frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.

The FAQ also defines badware as software "that fundamentally disregards a user's choice over how his or her computer will be used. There are several commonly recognized terms for types of badware - spyware, malware, and deceptive adware. Common examples might be a free screensaver that surreptitiously generates ads, or a malicious web browser toolbar that makes your browser go to different pages than the ones you expected."

In its announcement, the project cited recent statistics from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which indicate "roughly 59 million American adults today have badware on their computers."

"Problems related to badware forced home computer users to spend roughly $3.5 billion in 2003 and 2004 to replace or repair their hardware, according to Consumer Reports," the announcement continued.

StopBadware.org has assumed several missions. The site will provide a list of software considered "badware," with short reports on each item. The site will also name companies that distribute problematic software, and collect "horror stories" from users to help underscore the danger the software poses.

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