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August 29, 2006

Badware (True Beauty Lies Within)

Badware is an umbrella for an interesting type of software. While you think it's just a screensaver with pretty landscapes, the program also includes a stealth dialer if you use dial-up so you pay more for the Internet, it will change your homepage, your default search engine and even your life. You'll also get completely unrelated software that loads at start-up, pop-up ads and many icons on your desktop.

Jessica Simpson Screensaver is a "photo slide show of over 40 extremely high quality photos of the now famous Jessica Simpson with 103 transition effects, adjustable speed and mutable music."

But if you look behind the nice pictures, you'll find that:
Jessica Simpson Screensaver is bundled with a number of Trojan horses, or applications that can secretly install additional programs without disclosing to the user that any installation is occurring.

None of the bundled applications included with the Jessica Simpson Screensaver can be closed by a typical user. They must be closed by killing the individual processes from within the Windows Task Manager.

While Jessica Simpson Screensaver comes with an uninstaller, this only uninstalls the screensaver itself, not the bundled applications. None of the bundled applications includes an uninstaller, making uninstallation very difficult for a typical user. At least one of the bundled applications, GetMirar, actually requires the user to download a separate uninstaller from their website.

Jessica Simpson Screensaver is bundled with a stealth dialer called AvenueMedia (also known as "Money Tree"). Stealth dialers attempt to dial up numbers (such as 'adult' sites) with the user's modem, thereby incurring charges for the user.

Jessica Simpson Screensaver is bundled with a number of programs that display advertisements on the user's computer and track the user's web habits (e2give, GetMirar, EzuLa) or log the user's search terms (Safesurfing).

Prutect, one of the applications bundled with Jessica Simpson Screensaver, attempts to close or disable various anti-spyware and anti-virus applications (such as Adaware, Norton Internet Security, and Spybot Search & Destroy) if it finds them on the user's computer.

The adware that is bundled with the Jessica Simpson Screensaver causes numerous pop-up ads to appear on the user's desktop. Sometimes these ads are triggered by a user's search; sometimes they appear without any action being performed by the user (e.g., just leaving the computer alone).

Jessica Simpson Screensaver is one example of badware (or malware). Campaigns like StopBadware (that provided the description above) try to find this kind of software and make people aware of the danger of installing deceptive software. Google is one of the sponsors of this campaign.

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