Tucked in a back room located amid a slew of other mundane offices in a beautiful old house on Harvard's historic Cambridge campus, a team of researchers has spent the last four years working on a project aimed at stemming the rising flood of illegal and unethical programs overwhelming the Web.
Having lived and thrived to prove its over-arching thesis -- that many malware, adware and greyware campaigns can be identified and diverted before they can reach end users by filtering information provided by users themselves and some of the world's largest online data handlers -- Stopbadware.org is moving beyond its college years to become a full-time professional effort.
Founded in 2006 at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society by Prof.s Jonathan Zittrain and John Palfrey, StopBadware announced this week that it has matriculated and will now exist as a standalone non-profit organization.
The same companies that have been providing much of the support needed to carry out the project's goal of filtering as many web sites as possible to flag all those distributing some form of illegal or otherwise suspicious program -- Google, PayPal, and Mozilla -- will continue to back Stopbaware's work.
Among the deliverables that Stopbadware produces and maintains is a Clearinghouse of all sites it identifies as offering up programs that meet its badware criteria, which ranges from malware to almost any form of software that appears to obscure some or part of its actual intentions.
It also maintain a Top 50 list of badware-brokering networks and IP addresses, and constantly feeds data back to people like Google to help the search giant inform its own malware site filtering processes. The project's web page currently lists some 337,533 sites reported by all of its partners.
The decision to spin off "Stopbadware Inc." from the Berkman Center was made "in recognition of the effort's evolution from research project to mission-driven organization."
"StopBadware has grown in just a few years from the seed of an idea into an internationally recognized force in the fight against harmful software," Urs Gasser, executive director of the Berkman Center, said of the transition. "We are proud that, by developing a unique mission and becoming independent, StopBadware now follows in the footsteps of previous ventures like Creative Commons and Global Voices that have their roots here at the Berkman Center."
Palfrey will serve on the new non-profit's board of directors, along with Michael Barrett (PayPal), Vint Cerf (Google), Esther Dyson, Mike Shaver (Mozilla), Ari Schwartz (Center for Democracy & Technology), and executive director Maxim Weinstein.
"There is still much to do. Badware remains a growing problem, but in the past few years, there's also been a growing sense that this is a problem we - the Internet community - can and should work together to address. StopBadware is committed to making that happen," said Weinstein.
Congratulations to all associated on the commencement.
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Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.