The Seattle Shuffle
I'm blogging from beautiful Seattle, having just spent the day touring the facilities of adware maker 180Solutions Inc. and interviewing at least five of their top executives for a story I'm working on for the Washington Post Magazine.
Fall is in full swing here with the changing colors of the trees splashing vivid shades of red, gold and orange against hillsides blanketed with pine trees. To hear the folks at 180 explain things, they are undergoing a similar metamorphosis, trying to evolve from a company reviled for years of distributing its ad-serving software via legally questionable means to one that is cleaning up its act in the hopes of attracting more big-name advertisers.
Much of the discussion today revolved around methods 180 says it is using to crack down on "rogue distributors" which profited by installing 180's software along with dozens of other intrusive and unauthorized programs that more often than not rendered host computers completely unusable.
Two months ago, I wrote about a series of lawsuits 180 brought against seven of its distributors who the company alleged used thousands of home computers that were hacked and seeded with viruses to serve as an install base for the company's adware, in exchange for lucrative commissions from 180.
But according to 180 attorney Ken McGraw, the company withdrew those lawsuits a week ago, after the defendants -- all of whom reside outside of the United States -- for some reason declined to make the trip here to face the charges.
According to McGraw, prior to that decision 180 was approached by the FBI. He said the agency is looking into these individuals and numerous other 180 affiliates -- both domestically and abroad -- whom the feds suspect committed far more serious crimes than installing spyware and adware with their botnets. McGraw said 180 had been on the verge of filing additional civil suits, but that the feds urged them to stand down so as not to spook the bad guys.
McGraw would not elaborate on what those crimes might have been, but botnets are generally used as conduits for a variety of illegal activities online, from sending spam to conducting extortionist denial-of-service attacks that threaten Web sites owners who don't pay up with such a flood of junk traffic that their sites are no longer able to accommodate legitimate visitors.
From all of the technical detail I heard today, it sounds as though 180 may at last be on the path toward distancing itself from its old ways and partners. If future results bear that out, it would be a welcome -- if long overdue -- development.
Still, that may be little solace to the thousands of computer users who have been forced to buy new PCs to replace those hopelessly crippled by bundles of adware and spyware piggybacked on 180's distribution channels.
180 maintains that by year's end it will no longer profit from serving ads to consumers who did not authorize the installation of its software. This isn't the first time that 180 has made claims that turned out later to fall short of their stated intention, so rest assured that Security Fix will be closely monitoring the fruits of these initiatives.
Posted by: 180 should die. | October 21, 2005 1:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: didn't you notice the black hats | October 21, 2005 2:59 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: everybody wants it free | October 21, 2005 5:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Billy F. | October 22, 2005 8:35 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Treehugger | October 24, 2005 5:05 PM | Report abuse
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