June 27, 2005 10:55 PM PDT

Adware maker tries image makeover

In an apparent attempt to shed its image as an aggressive adware pusher, 180solutions is alerting PC users whose computers run its ad-serving software and is offering tips on removing it.

The company on Monday started displaying messages on PCs to inform people that the software is installed on their system, 180solutions spokesman Sean Sundwall said. The message explains that the software displays pop-up ads and offers a link to uninstall the software, he said.

As is common with adware, many people may have unwittingly installed 180solutions' product. It may even have installed itself in a so-called drive-by install, where Web browser vulnerabilities are used to drop and install software on PCs when people visit malicious Web sites. 180solutions software is installed on about 20 million PCs, the company said.

180solutions has dubbed its notification effort a "campaign to renotify customers" to ensure "proper consent and disclosure," the Bellevue, Wash.-based company said in a statement.

The move could in part be triggered by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who in April sued Web marketer Intermix Media for installing software on people's machines without meaningful consent.

180solutions is under pressure to clean up its act, said Alex Eckelberry, president of anti-spyware software maker Sunbelt Software. 180solutions is "in a bind" because of the threat of litigation, demands from financiers and blacklisting by anti-spyware products, he said.

Sundwall said Spitzer's action is "totally unrelated" to 180solutions' moves.

"We actually were very supportive of Spitzer in this suit as it provided an opportunity to further differentiate the bad actors from the good ones," he said.

180solutions does not deny that its software has been installed on PCs unbeknownst to people. However, it blames "rogue distributors" for those installs. The company relies on about 1,000 third parties who get paid for each installation of the 180search Assistant. 180solutions itself also distributes the Zango Search Assistant.

In the past six months, 180solutions has cut off about 440 distributors, Sundwall said. Also, the company last year sued two of its distributors and is taking technical steps to prevent the illicit installation of its product, he said.

180solutions' software pops up ads based on Web sites a PC user visits. The company pitches the ads as a form of payment for services, such as those it provides on Zango.com, a Web site with games, other online entertainment and software. It claims to provide people with more than $500 worth of content a year in exchange for the ads.

Still, there is skepticism about 180solutions' moves.

"The company's practices are so troubled, damaged from years of bad acts," said Ben Edelman, a Harvard law student and an adware and spyware researcher.

180solutions is still installed without proper consent, Edelman said. Even installations distributed by the closest 180solutions partners "are misleading at best," he said. Furthermore, 180solutions actively discourages uninstalls of its products, said Edelman, who details some of the company's practices on his Web site.

Lawmakers are also fighting adware and spyware. The U.S. House of Representatives last month approved a pair of bills that supporters say will help safeguard Internet users from spyware.


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A popup alert from an adware maker ...
an adware maker displaying a popup with a link to something called an 'uninstaller' ... Looks just like another driveby download attempt.

Only the dumbest user will ever click on such a link (even if the new trick is ... it's a real uninstaller).

Users who have this spyware on their machine are obviously not aware about the source, so they won't know who this '180Solution' is.

The only goal for this is to allow 180Solutions to claim the people it bombarded with that popup and who did not click on the so called 'uninstall' link are 'willingly' keeping their spyware and are no more entitled to claim they were not notified ...

Another clever trick around 'consent' ...
Posted by My-Self (242 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, sure......
If 180solutions had any concept of ethics at all, they wouldn't
have come up with their sneaky program. Now that they have
come up with it, a current acquistionof ethics would require that
180solutions unibstall any of their spyware whenever and
wherever found without bothering the user. Then, if
180solutions still wants to snoop, that's the time to ask for
install permission.

But of course, 180solutions doesn't understand ethics, just
income. So the installs continue, and the 'uninstall link'
continues to look like SPAM fraud, and 180solutions heeps
counting their cash.

It's too bad that there isn't a way to screw up 180solutions's
computers in retaliation.

....but maybe there is....
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I love that they make it seem as if they are doing users a favor by letting them know their software is installed, and giving removal instructions.

You want to do people a favor...?
Posted by (46 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What value?
The problem with 180 Solutions is that their software adds absolutely no value whatsoever, much less covers the cost of the additional overhead they steal from your computer and communications infrastructure.

They'll claim that by providing advertisements you'll get opportunities to find deals you wouldn't otherwise learn about but the truth is that the web is already mainly supported by advertising revenues using legitimate delivery methods while their software actually detracts from the legitimate advertisements and weakens the true support for the internet.

Their company model is based on being parasites.
Posted by 202578300049013666264380294439 (137 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Makeover attempt disingenuous at best
I find the attempt of an adware pusher to makeover its image disingenuous at best. A good way for them to start the makeover process would be to stop pushing adware in the first place, however, I doubt that this is what they have in mind. The problem with these adware companies is that the owners and investors seem to think that they have a legitimate business model when they in fact do not. I also find it particularly amusing that many of these adware programs often hitch a ride with file sharing software that has been promoted as a way to illegally obtain copyrighted material (not sure if 180solutions has done this, but others have).

It is interesting to note that they blame rogue distributors for these installs of its software. Many adware companies are making the same claim. My question is where did these rogue distributors come from and why were they allowed to be distributors in the first place? It seems to me that the distributors make an easy scapegoat for a more fundamental problem (that problem being an illegitimate business model). Part of the solution would be to go after the companies that advertise on these networks. Once a GM or Circuit City is sued (or at least publicly embarassed) for advertising in this manner, much of the adware revenue will dry up and the adware companies will cease to exist.

It also seems that all adware companies claim to provide valuable services in exchange for viewing the ads generated by their software. For zango.com to claim that it provides over $500 worth of content per year is laughable. For the average consumer, there is nothing on the web that is worth $500 or even $5. One example is meetup.com. Since announcing a plan to charge they have lost most of their members and are continuing to hemorrage as people jump to other services that are still free.

Also to blame is the current lack of diversity in computer hardware/software. Since the vast majority of computers are based on the same architecture and run the same operating system with the same integrated web browser, it is only too easy to exploit holes in this one system to guarantee that one's adware has a large install base. I am not advocating that people switch en masse to Linux (not pratical for most people at this time) or even to using Firefox in Windows (somewhat more practical), but there needs to be a number of different operating systems (both open-source and proprietary) and web browsers from different companies with differing philosophies that have significant market share to make it more difficult to guarantee that the software can be installed on a particular computer.

Finally, the fact that these companies seem to be targeting children is particularly troubling. Naive parents may be partly to blame (why any parent would allow a child to run as a privileged user on a computer is incomprehensible), but the idea that any company, legitimate or not, would aggresively target children with insidious advertising is beyond the pale. This alone should be enough of a reason for these companies to be put out of business.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hello my fellow computer user's.
I'm 42 years old and have been using the Internet for mass
communication back in the day when the internet was in DOS
The user's back then were really cool and followed a serious
code of helping one another. Like if you needed some bit of
information, you would have at least 100 user's reply with what
ever information you needed and it was all for free,
But today is just like a massive ocean of filth where almost
everyone and every company is trying to get your money by any
means. and i am here to tell you that 180SOLUTIONS are the
biggest lowlifes on the Net.

I spend 60 to 80% of my time searching and removing spyware
and adware from every single person I know and don't.
Those programs are coded to stop an antispyware programs
from removing the spyware but crashing your system, openning
hundreds of internet explorer windows until the system crashes,
changes everything about a person's computer.

I'm not your average computer user.
I just really love the technology since I first saw the movie
WarGames which was the newest thing back in the day.
Everything I do with computers is self taught, just like my
awesome fighting skills.
I only beat the crap out of bad guys and wonna-be bullies.

Sorry for jumping off subject but I really HATE these nerds that
write those f#@king programs.


Born In Brooklyn, Raised in The Bronx.
Posted by Nino Nice (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ADWARES have no place in Business
There is nothing an ADWARE can do to improve its image. It has no right to install itself into the systems of other people. They have to be on the guard all the time. I have antivirus software, antispy software. Yet one adware found a way to get past all this anteverything software and set up its search Engine right at the bottom of my laptop. Every sec my software keeps asking me for my approval for the change in my applications or for addition of new software. Is this what the Adware trying to do? I don't need its alerts. what are my anti-everything software for?

The time has come to ditch this system of doing business. The time has come to adopt a new method of delivering the internet service that is server based rather than client based. This client based interne service has caused agony for everybody. It should be put out of business.

A case is made for this new way to deliver the Internet service at

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://wirelessera.rediffblogs.com" target="_newWindow">http://wirelessera.rediffblogs.com</a>
Posted by newerawisp (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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