For those just joining us, Saturday was an unusually busy day for us here at StopBadware.org. One result of Saturday's incident is that it left many asking, “What is StopBadware.org, anyway?” Some reporters did a nice job of answering that question, based largely on content from our "about" page. [Update Feb. 3: See also this well-done piece by CNET reporter Elinor Mills.] What may still not be clear to readers is what problem we're trying to solve and how we're trying to solve it.
Founded by Harvard Law professors John Palfrey and Jonathan Zittrain, StopBadware.org seeks to identify, evaluate, and demonstrate solutions to malware (viruses, Trojans, worms, etc.) and other software that disregards a user's choice regarding how his/her computer is used. Collectively, we call this software “badware.” This is a very real problem: amongst U.S. consumers alone, over $8 billion was lost due to badware-related issues last year, according to Consumer Reports. Those spam messages cluttering your inbox? The fake bank and pharmacy sites trying to get you to enter your personal information? All are part of a criminal ecosystem in which badware plays a critical role.
Of course, there are many groups trying to find solutions to this problem. StopBadware's unique role is to be an independent entity that benefits from the advice and support of many of the Internet's top organizations and thought leaders (see our lists of partners and advisory board members). We regularly ask ourselves (and our community), “How can we combine technology, transparency, data, and the collective wisdom of Internet users in novel ways to help us better understand and combat badware?”
Some answers to this question are reflected in the work we have taken on since our inception in 2006:
- Providing independent reviews (upon request by the site owners) of websites that our partners such as Google identify as dangerous
- Alerting web hosting providers to the presence of infected websites on their networks so they can investigate those sites (e.g., see, for example, this item about Byet Host)
- Developing guidelines that define badware, alerting the public when we discover applications that violate it, and working with software producers to remove badware behavior from their applications
- Publishing objective content to assist website owners and end users in understanding and protecting their computers and sites from badware
- Establishing an online community to assist those who have questions about badware or who want to better understand the badware landscape
This is just the beginning. Over the coming years, we plan to continue building our network and finding new ways to put the openness, connectedness, and innovative spirit of the Internet to work in protecting us all from badware. If you'd like to be a part of our efforts, please consider subscribing to this blog, joining our announcements list, and/or participating in our online community, BadwareBusters.org.