Bad Websites Beware

Posted on July 27, 2006 - 07:23 by colson

Last Friday we released's first website report (available here). Why evaluate websites? For one thing, badware doesn't appear on users' computers out of thin air -- much of it (maybe even most of it) is hosted on websites that make a profit from distributing these bad applications. Given the often close relationships between badware and the bad sites that distribute it, it made sense for to start shining a light on the websites themselves, not just the applications they host for download. In that vein, we've come up with some fairly basic internal guidelines for judging badware-distributing sites. Short version: if a site distributes or hosts any badware applications, then the site itself is considered bad. These guidelines are likely to evolve as we encounter difficult cases and have to make some tough decisions about how much and what type of badware renders a website bad.

Our first website report focuses on The ThemeXP site features graphical modifications for Microsoft Windows such as themes, wallpaper, and icons. However, many of the downloads on the site are "wrapped" with badware. Because the wrapped badware is essentially the same from one piece of content to the next, we decided to review the entire site instead of a single download. You can expect to see more website reports like this one in the near future. If you'd like to suggest websites for us to review, shoot us an email at And if
you'd like to give us feedback on our new website report format, check out the StopBadware discussion group.

Badware Company Receives Award

Posted on June 28, 2006 - 05:01 by colson

Ernst & Young recently awarded their Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® award to the management of, LLC. You might remember as the makers of “Waterfalls 3,†a piece of software that we tested earlier this year and found to be badware (see our report, which we’ll need to update now).

After learning of the award, we retested the application to see if the company had cleaned up its act. We found that had improved the installation process by better allowing users to opt-out of installing bundled apps and by more explicitly disclosing some of the bundled apps' bad behaviors. However, spyware is still being downloaded without user consent as part of the screensaver bundle (in the form of Webhancer components). So while it appears that has made some progress, we feel that its practices are a long way from what should be considered the industry ideal.

We question whether a company like Ernst & Young should be rewarding the "entrepreneurial" efforts of a company like By our badware guidelines, the company's screensavers are still badware, and any business model that relies on deceiving consumers should not be applauded. We feel that was the wrong company to receive this award.

New Interns

Posted on June 2, 2006 - 13:46 by colson

Summer has arrived in Boston, and so have StopBadware's newest team members, Catherine and Bryan. Although our summer interns will be splitting their time with other worthy Berkman Center projects, we're excited to have them on board as we begin to redesign StopBadware's process for generating reports. With a more streamlined process in place, we hope to become more efficient at creating reports about individual badware applications.