A high-powered coalition of anti-spyware vendors has collapsed amid a rash of acrimony and finger-pointing.
The Consortium of Anti-Spyware Technology vendors (COAST) was rendered toothless when three founding members—Webroot Software Inc., Aluria Software LLC and Computer Associates International Inc.s PestPatrol—withdrew from the group, citing separate reasons for quitting.
Another founder, Lavasoft Inc., pulled out of the consortium earlier and accused COASTs leadership of adopting an "overt agenda to concentrate on revenue generation."
The latest withdrawals stem from the decision by COAST to allow membership to 180solutions Inc., a Bellevue, Wash.-based search marketing company that uses questionable tactics to install ad-serving software on computers.
In statements released over the weekend, Webroot and Aluria listed different reasons for leaving COAST, and although the inclusion of 180solutions was not mentioned, company executives made it clear that they were uncomfortable with the idea of adware firms using COAST membership as a marketing tool.
"Of late, we have become concerned that COAST is moving in a direction with which we cannot agree," Boulder, Colo.-based Webroot said in a statement.
"We have long championed an open dialog among anti-spyware solutions on standards criteria for defining spyware. However, we are not comfortable with the idea of COAST as a certification body or as a marketing tool for member companies."
Aluria, based on Orlando, Fla., said it tried in vain to get COAST to define a clear and comprehensive set of spyware standards and code of ethics for adware developers. "Despite our best efforts, however, COAST was slow-moving in setting standards. We have tried, but COAST is no longer a viable organization," Aluria added.
Sam Curry, vice president of product management for CAs eTrust brand, told eWEEK.com that PestPatrol also would pull out of the consortium, but he pinned the blame for the breakup squarely on the shoulders of Webroot and Aluria.
"I find it odd that 180solutions is the source of the conflict. The goal [of COAST] was to certify vendors that reformed their product. 180solutions went to great pains to make major changes. The new versions of their software conform to scorecards and standards," Curry said.
"Its sad that some ill-informed and hasty moves are drawing such attention. COAST really was doing something valuable and getting developers to change their questionable tactics," he added.
Richard Stiennon, vice president of threat research at Webroot, confirmed that the company was uncomfortable with the inclusion of adware/spyware companies and the direction in which COAST was headed.
"When we were originally forming COAST, we never envisaged it as a certification body. It was created as a place for anti-spyware vendors to meet, discuss and create standards for treating a common problem," Stiennon said in an interview with eWEEK.com.
"Suddenly, we have 180solutions and other adware vendors purchasing membership as some sort of marketing ploy. We were not comfortable with that direction."
He said Webroot abstained from the vote to include 180solutions and hinted that at least two other adware vendors with questionable installation and tracking techniques are in the queue for COAST membership.