Computer Associates International Inc. is changing its policy for handling appeals from suspected spyware vendors.
CAs eTrust PestPatrol unit will no longer remove detection signatures for suspected spyware from its database of known spyware and adware programs while it considers appeals filed by the makers of those programs, said Tori Case, director of eTrust Security Management at CA. The change follows criticism from customers and other anti-spyware vendors after PestPatrol temporarily removed signatures for the ubiquitous Gator family of spyware and adware programs.
CA has not publicized its decision and is still adhering to the existing policy of removing detection for suspected spyware applications involved in vendor appeals, but it will officially announce the new policy in the coming days, once it completes changes to the companys official vendor appeal documentation and Web page content, Case said.
CA found itself in hot water with the anti-spyware community after it said on March 25 that it was removing detection signatures for six applications by Gator software maker Claria Corp. from its database pending a decision on an appeal filed by Claria using CAs vendor appeal process.
Web sites frequented by anti-spyware enthusiasts were abuzz with criticism of the move. One week later, CA reinstated the signatures for the six Claria programs and added definitions for three more applications: eWallet, GotSmiley and Screenscenes, according to information posted on Broadbandreports.com.
Few other anti-spyware vendors have the same "innocent until proven guilty" policy that CA has maintained since buying anti-spyware company Pest Patrol Inc. in August. An official at one anti-spyware vendor was critical of CAs vendor appeal policy.
"We would never have done what CA did—delist a program like Gator just because we got a nasty letter from Claria," said Richard Stiennon, vice president of threat research at Webroot Software Inc.
The change in CAs policy is being made because the company is getting better at vetting appeals from vendors, not because of the uproar over the delisting of Gator and its cousins, Case said.
"Weve been able to streamline the process by which we do appeals. It doesnt take us two weeks to do it any more," she said.
In the past, the company wanted to make sure that it erred on the side of caution when identifying spyware and didnt unfairly block legitimate software. However, the company is not making as many mistakes now, she said.
In fact, even with the old policy, CA was usually able to resolve appeals within the time that separates anti-spyware database updates, meaning that customers are rarely affected by appeals. However, the Claria Corp. appeal was received on the same day that CA issued its database update, a company spokesperson said.
CA will not be making any changes to the criteria it uses to identify spyware and adware programs, despite changing its vendor appeal process, Case said.
"The typical vendor issue is Were not bad. Were not trying to do bad things. We want to describe behaviors that are objectionable," she said.
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