Adware Gang Wars.

Is it wrong that this article on adware companies fighting it out in court gives me a case of the warm fuzzies?

This particular legal squabble is important to you because it may end up determining how much of a right outside companies have to change the configuration and settings on your PC when you agree to install their software. It seems the folks at adware maker Avenue Media are upset because the folks over at rival adware maker DirectRevenue have developed competing products that when installed will detect if Avenue Media’s products are present and, if found, will kill and remove them from your PC.

Avenue Media said DirectRevenue’s tactics have caused it to lose about 1 million customers—about half its installed base—and as much as $10,000 a day in revenue.

“DirectRevenue, knowingly and with intent to defraud, exceeded its authorized access to users’ computers…by automatically uninstalling Avenue Media’s Internet Optimizer upon installation or update of DirectRevenue’s competing browser,” according to the complaint, which was filed in a district court in Seattle.

As you can see, there’s some big money at stake here. DirectRevenue doesn’t deny that its products actively remove competing software from a user’s computer. In fact, they’ve put a clause in their license agreement that effectively says the user grants them the permission to do so simply by accepting the license and installing the software:

“You further understand and agree, by installing the software, that the software may, without any further prior notice to you, remove, disable or render inoperative other adware programs resident on your computer.”

It was a smart cover-your-ass move to put that into their EULA as many users will accept the agreement without ever actually reading it and it could very well be upheld as legal by the courts. If it is then you can expect a full-out gang war between the adware makers as they scramble to come up with their own methods of literally eliminating the competition from your PC without being eliminated themselves. That could lead to corrupted registries or other components of the OS becoming issues as these programs attempt to rip each other out by the roots.

Of course, if you’re smart, you won’t let any of them find purchase on your PC to begin with.

Update: Ben Edelman goes into greater detail on this issue in this article and it appears that the EULA may not be a good CYA move afterall because DirectRevenue’s software products can and will take advantage of unpatched holes in Windows to install themselves without ever showing the user a EULA. Not that Avenue Media is any better as they’ll take advantage of the same holes when they can.

Avenue may be suffering from wrongful behavior by DirectRevenue, but note that Avenue has problems of its own. In my tests, Avenue’s software (like DirectRevenue’s) was installed without any notice or consent whatsoever. (Again, I have video proof.) However installed, Internet Optimizer’s primary function is to show extra advertising, primarily by replacing web browser error messages with its own ads—not a feature most users request. In addition, Internet Optimizer’s EULA admits to tracking web sites visited and keywords searched. Finally, Doxdesk reports that Internet Optimizer has (or recently had) security holes that risk unauthorized installation of other software.

This additional info was found via Spyware Warrior.


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