As Internet users become increasingly threatened with spyware and adware attempting to infect their machines, software vendors and consumers groups have been struggling to answer a critical question: What is spyware?
A coalition is now attempting to draw a line between acceptable and invasive advertising.
The Anti-Spyware Coalition, headed by the Center for Democracy & Technology with support from industry giants America Online Inc., EarthLink Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Yahoo Inc. among others, has released the first draft of a 13-page document, here in PDF form, designed to establish definitions that will bring clarity to anti-spyware vendors.
Such classification of spyware and adware would make it easier for companies to improve their detection and removal products, and better educate customers of the risks associated with spyware. In addition, anti-spyware software vendors could avoid lawsuits from ad companies who claim their software is unfairly targeted.
Microsoft muddied the waters last week when it redefined adware company Clarias software as “Ignore” rather than “Quarantine,” much to the chagrin of security experts. Microsoft publicly responded to the criticism saying the new classification came after a standard review process.
Microsoft also posted the criteria it uses when defining potential threats, which include deceptive behaviors, privacy, security, performance impact, and industry and consumer opinion of the product.
Likewise, the Anti-Spyware Coalition has defined “potential threats”—a term that includes spyware, adware, cookies and hijackers—as programs that: impair users control over their systems, including privacy and security; impair the use of system resources, including what programs are installed on their computers; or collect, use and distribute personal or otherwise sensitive information.