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An Interview with 180 Solutions 133

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the getting-to-know dept.
Paperghost writes "Here's a great interview between Jimmy Daniels and an anonymous ex-employee of 180 Solutions, who portrays the company as being somewhere between turmoil and meltdown. There's so many notable quotables it's scary, but here's one that really sets the tone: 'Shutting down these rogue distributors turned out to be a lot more difficult than they expected though. When you lose them, your daily installs go down drastically and the revenue goes to hell. The layoff in September could be laid directly at the feet of this effort.'"
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An Interview with 180 Solutions

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  • by Phantombrain (964010) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @10:15PM (#15047757) Journal
    How can they have so many "rouge distributors" and not notice? It seems like someone had to say "Oh, this doesn't look right". I guess it's hard when you're a spyware company.
  • eh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rscoggin (845029) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @10:24PM (#15047783) Homepage
    How can they even exist without "rogue distributors"? I was under the impression that that was about 90% of their installs... I don't really know anyone that decides to install that on their own >_>
    • Re:eh? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Eightyford (893696)
      How can they even exist without "rogue distributors"? I was under the impression that that was about 90% of their installs... I don't really know anyone that decides to install that on their own >_>

      Well you know when you, or somebody else, installs that addictive new flash game? Well one of the 15 yes buttons that you click is your permission to install that spyware and adware.
      • Re:eh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lintux (125434)
        Well you know when you, or somebody else, installs that addictive new flash game? Well one of the 15 yes buttons that you click is your permission to install that spyware and adware.

        Yeah, saw that. But I'd consider that a rogue installation too, by exploiting the user instead of his/her software.
        • by BVis (267028)
          I wouldn't consider that a rogue installation; the user is informed that they're installing this garbage, and have the option not to. That isn't a rogue installation, that's just basic user stupidity. While I won't defend the slime that writes and distributes this crap, taking advantage of someone's stupidity is what makes the (financial) world go around.

          I'd define "rogue" installation as a drive-by install exploiting an ActiveX control in IE, where there's no warning that it's installing this crap.
          • by lintux (125434)
            Yeah, it's indeed user stupidity (as I said the installer exploits user failure instead of software failure), but in the end the user thinks (s)he's installing some "cool flash game". The game distributor tries very hard to hide the fact that it also installs some spyware.

            Maybe rogue isn't the right word. But it's certainly sneaky.
            • by BVis (267028)
              I wouldn't even call it "sneaky". It says right up front "Do you want to install this?" The right answer is "No", but the average moron will just click "Yes" to whatever comes up. I have very little sympathy for those people; they got themselves in trouble by installing something without knowing what it was.
    • Didn't you read the article? (I'm sorry, I momentarily forgot where I was). The company's going bust. Their profits soared when they "ignored" rogue installs (by ignore, I mean happily accepted the profits from), they're now going bust after coming down on rogue installs. It doesn't take a genius to work out what's going on.
      • But for the intellectually non-inclined, I'll explain anyways: the need for Spybot may dissapear.

        $w00t++;

        • 180 Solutions is not the only spyware "suite" out there. The amount of spyware *might* go down(it is still a fairly lucrative business), but it will still be around.
    • I actually once tried to download an install for Gator, just to see if they had one. I was only half surprised when I couldn't find anything but PR drivel on their site.
    • I gather from context that they do something in the spyware business, and Wikipedia has more detail [wikipedia.org], presented in a relatively neutral lawsuit-avoiding manner. But what do they really do? Pay people who trick\\\\\entice users into installing their software and collect money from ads that it displays? Is their software obvious and removable these days, or is it near-rootkit invisible?
  • Who? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Eightyford (893696)
    I know I'm not the only one has has never heard of 180 Solutions. From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
    180 Solutions is the company that produces adware applications such as Zango and Seekmo. Formerly, they also produced the 180 Search Assistant (also known as 180sa) and ncase.
    • Judging by your UID, 180 has been discussed numerous times.
    • Re:Who? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Glonoinha (587375) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @10:36PM (#15047823) Journal
      I know I'm not the only one has has never heard of 180 Solutions. From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
      Those fuckers are evil - even the Wikipedia page on 180 Solutions tried to install spyware on my computer.
    • Re:Who? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Onan (25162) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:03PM (#15047883)
      By far the worst thing about slashdot editors--worse than the dupes, the typos, the mischaracterizations--is their apparent inability to write headlines and summaries that mean a damn thing to readers who don't already know every bit of obscure trivia about what's being discussed. I'm longstanding geek, I read slashdot more or less daily; I'm smack in the middle of the target audience. And yet, at least once a week I see a "summary" that's completely incomprehensible gibberish to me.

      One has to wonder why, if the editors submit writeups that are meaningless to anyone who doesn't already know exactly what's being said, they bother writing anything at all.
      • by jandrese (485) *
        Uh, this is certainly not the first time this has come up on Slashdot. Do you expect the authors to explain what Linux is every time one of those stores comes up? If you're one of the 5% of Slashdot readers who didn't know what this story was about, do you think there might be a resource you could use? [justfuckinggoogleit.com]
        • by Onan (25162)
          Perhaps the previous summaries provided more information about what was being discussed, clarifying for me that it was a topic in which I have no interest, and I moved on without memorizing the company's name. I've never used Windows, never plan to, never support anyone doing so, so spyware companies are not a topic to which I devote a lot of attention. But this summary said nothing more specific than "IT" and "security", which covers a lot of ground in which I am interested.

          Explaining Linux is hardly a m

      • Your argument is correct and pointless. Whichever way the editors try to summarize the news item, there will be thousands that still have no clue what it's about, and hundreds that whine that the editor is over-simplifying the issue.

        I think the current way works well; for me, I know that whenever there's a story where I go "snuh?", there's always some relevant background info in the early replies.
      • by BillGod (639198)
        how is it possible that you people have never heard of 180 solutions? Am I wrong here? How can you possibly refere to yourself as a geek? Have you touched a computer besides your fbsd hackproof spyware proof computer? they have been around for years. 180 and gator were the inventors of modern day spyware.
  • by komodo9 (577710) * on Sunday April 02, 2006 @10:27PM (#15047793) Homepage
    180 Solutions has forever ruined the free multimedia industry of the internet. Anytime I see a "free screensaver" or "free desktop wallpaper", they're usually somehow connected with spyware and adware.

    And their popups/popunders.... ugh.
    --
    BMW Forums [unitedbimmer.com]
  • content economy? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by opencity (582224) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @10:52PM (#15047855) Homepage
    You're not creating a content economy by making your advertising an anoyance. This 'blink tag' mentality doesn't work when everyone can provide content. How many of you, googling the capital of faroffistan, type 'wiki'? No ads, obnoxious loaders, browser crashing javascript.

    Now that content is a two (multi?) way stream we have to go back to a pre-electronic mindset. Some of the greatest paintings of the 19th century were sold to hang in restaurants. Now that's good advertising.
    • The "content economy" thing is BS. I understand that advertising pays for content, as it always has on TV, and we put up with it because the content is valuable and we don't want to pay the full costs of production+profits to the producers and distributors.

      But I would never intentionally put a device in my home that broadcast ads at me all day and night just so I could watch an hour of TV a day. Imagine if your TV prompted you in small print whether you wanted to "install" such a program on the TV in exch
    • How many of you, googling the capital of faroffistan, type 'wiki'?
      I don't. I type 'w faroffistan' instead and get the same effect. :)
  • Vmware? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crossmr (957846) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @10:58PM (#15047866) Journal
    Uninstalls? Yeah. I've taken it off my neighbors computer a couple times He has three girls and it finally got so bad that I rebuilt his laptop and installed vmware, then decreed that he was the only person in the house allowed to use the computer without starting vmware first and surfing from it. He backed it up and has been happy ever since.

    Who sets up Vmware as a permanent use type of solution like this? Why not just install anti-spyware tools, use mozilla, and even toss on the tea-timer from spybot.

    I guess its been so long since I've been that naive I forget what its like..

    • Re:Vmware? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by grcumb (781340) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:19PM (#15047917) Homepage Journal

      "Who sets up Vmware as a permanent use type of solution like this?"

      I do. I run a few public access computer centres, and this is the only way to keep them intact. The computers run Ubuntu by default, but if someone absolutely positively needs Windows (e.g. Teaching a class about Word), they run XP in a VM, which reverts to its initial state the moment it's powered off. Thank heavens for snapshots!

      In public access situations, I really do have an 'infinite number of monkeys' at the keyboards, and this is the best way I've found to guarantee that things never break.

      • Which is fine in that type of situation, but this person is referring to a home use situation, which is entirely different. Setting up to run Vmware simply to surf because you're afraid of spyware is absolutely ridiculous.
        • Re:Vmware? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jerf (17166) on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:47AM (#15048172) Journal
          Setting up to run Vmware simply to surf because you're afraid of spyware is absolutely ridiculous.

          You can make a very good case that the exact opposite is true, especially if you're dealing with someone who insists on using Internet Explorer. IE has had a large number of flaws that allow hostile remote websites to do silent installs of arbitrary software. It quite likely still has some. I'm also not prepared to say Firefox doesn't have any, even though I'd expect it to be somewhat better.

          So what, you say? You only browse the safe websites? I respond, oh, you mean you absolutely, positively never make a typo in the location bar? The websites you browser are absolutely guaranteed to not be hacked?

          Heck, I've accidentally clicked on links in my spam when my touchpad acts up. I use Linux so I'm not too worried, but in Windows, that could have been enough!

          It certainly ought to be ridiculous, but if you really examine the facts of the case as they are rather than as they should be, setting up a VM for browsing makes quite a lot of sense in any situation where the user can't be trusted to re-install their OS if necessary. If that includes home use for some family where all the members have better things to do with their time than learn the arcana of Windows, so be it. The only downside is memory consumption and the fact that it makes downloading things for the host system that much harder... something in that scenario I'd be inclined to call a feature anyhow.
          • Re:Vmware? (Score:2, Insightful)

            by incabulos (55835)
            Good call, and its worth pointing out that this is not a security concept limited to Windows and Microsoft software specifically either. Its the reason why an increasingly large number of *nix server daemons are set to run in a chrooted or jailed environment - Apache, many of the OpenBSD-affiliated projects like OpenSSH, OpenNTP, etc all can run this way.

            The idea of course being that a remote compromise will only gain access to the chroot environment rather than your juicy and tender /etc files, /sbin binar
            • Or, taking it a step further, use Systrace [systrace.org] which eliminiates the need to run e.g. OpenNTP in a chroot. It even eliminates the need to run it as root to bind to *:123.

              With Systrace, you can define what each application can do on the system call level and with pattern matching on their arguments. You could even run OpenNTP as user nobody and provide an exception in the policy that raises its uid to 0 for the duration of the bind() system call only.

              Cool stuff. Wasn't really aware of it although it exists for y
          • >The websites you browser are absolutely guaranteed to not be hacked?

            Or never to carry advertising content from an infected server? Or never to be DNS-hijacked?

            Staying on reputable web sites does lower your risk but nothing more than that. Noscript is your good friend.
          • I've used Deep Freeze [faronics.com] a few times when I've needed to setup a Windows machine for public use or in a lab. Users can do whatever they want on the computer including installing programs, make registry changes whatever and it's all gone, back to normal on reboot. Deep Freeze is a commercial app, but it's pretty reasonably priced and works great.
        • Not really. The home situation is actually his neighbor's machine which is used also used by three kids.

          Having the kids' use restricted to a virtual machine means the kids can monkey around with it as much as they like without them or the parents worrying about something breaking. The monkeying around bit covers spyware installs and other misc crap websites like to install.

          This in turn greatly reduces support needs, which was the original motivation.
          • A responsible parent would educate their children or not permit them access to the machine when its connected to the internet. Not exactly rocket science.
            I would much rather take the time to explain to them how to proplerly use stuff, and maybe get them using another browser like mozilla/firefox, then come up with some asinine solution like forcing them to run Vmware.

            With that you're trusting them to limit themselves to vmware. What if they hose their install and you're not there? Suddenly they fire up the
            • Re:Vmware? (Score:2, Insightful)

              by grimwell (141031)
              Agreed, the education is the priority. Part of the learning experience is making mistakes; both the freedom to make them and to learn from them.

              I would much rather take the time to explain to them how to proplerly use stuff, and maybe get them using another browser like mozilla/firefox, then come up with some asinine solution like forcing them to run Vmware.

              Setting up VMWare doesn't mean the parent gets out of educating their child. It just provides an easier to support&maintain computing environment.
            • Your logic dances around two or more important facts, the first being: many, dare I say Most, adults "just don't get computers", and therefore they don't understand many possible dangers of kids using computers, and secondly, these days the levees aren't exactly overflowing with what you call "responsible parents", and whether or not they ever did in the past is up for question.
              • we can all hope for something better can't we? ;)
                • Oh, sure, and there's no doubt that such hoping would be very comforting. But I take favor with Sam Clemens on this one: "Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms."
      • couldn't you use WINE to run winword on ubuntu?

        just a thought...
    • I've done similar things.

      Your solution assumes the user doesn't behave too badly and is trying to avoid it.

      It fails when you get a user who randomly clicks on the screen when something fails, doesn't understand (and refuses to) what popups are so they click on *all* of them, basically just does almost everything wrong and is what these people prey on.

      Now, in a business you may be able to say "screw you" but your spouse? Parents? Kids? Maybe even a neigbor that does enough other work for you that you feel ob
    • Despite being a heavyweight solution, I think it's a great idea. One step closer to disposable computing. It doesn't matter if the software is rubbish if you can throw it away after using it.
  • Oh yeah... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thej1nx (763573)
    Shutting out your primary distribution channel and clientele is ofcourse, a bad business policy.

    Which no sane company will ofcourse do. Especially considering that their entire business model depends on adware/spyware.

    So all I can surmise is, they are trying to get at least some good PR value out of a bad quarter :p

    They do need a more positive public perception of them, considering the recent cases against spyware makers/distributors.

  • Oh....no... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I feel so bad for these guys...especially the guys that are surprised by the pink slips.

    Poor malicious coders.

    Wonder what they put on their resumes...probably would load it with spyware if the paper supported it.

    AC
    • Re:Oh....no... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032)
      Wonder what they put on their resumes

      "Please don't kill me"?

      Mind you, if I ever got a resume from someone who'd worked for a spamware company, it would go to the very same place as the spam.

      -jcr
      • Mind you, if I ever got a resume from someone who'd worked for a spamware company, it would go to the very same place as the spam.

        Everyone needs to eat. Sometimes we do what we have to in order to survive.

        "Let's see, I can eat, pay bills, and make ends meet, or not work for this company with which I have philisophical differences."

        Just because someone works for one of these companies doesn't mean that they are "evil".

        • Yeah... because there are literally *no* other openings available, right? There is *no* other company in the world you can work for? Get real. The Nuremberg defense is really getting old.
          • The Nuremberg defense is really getting old.

            Not only that, it was never valid in the first place.

            -jcr
          • You're telling me that anyone, anywhere can just get decent work for what they want to do, at a company that they love? That nobody is ever driven to work a job that they dislike in order to survive? That someone cannot be trapped by circumstances?

            You're the one who needs to get real. We don't live in some happy, zero-unemployment, workers' market utopia. The workers don't always have choice. And I wasn't *just* talking about tech jobs. Lots of people compromise their ethics in their jobs.

            I'm not


  • Lately I've been seeing TV ads featuring smiling, happy actors standing in front of expensive automobiles and houses claiming that they now earn $5K (and up) per month for doing relatively little work. Somehow this is possible by using a computer and the internet.

    Reading the small print on the screen tells the viewer that, after registering online, the viewer will be directed to some other website that features "business opportunities". It seems like every time I catch this ad there is a different URL and
    • The changing URLs are probably to measure ad response rates.

      It's a pretty slick ad, and has been on the air for a long time. They must be doing something right to have paid for the ad and kept it on the air.

      I just wish it was that easy to make "big money" on the Internet.

      • Sure it's easy. Just make those sites and drive traffic to them. What, you expected that it was the people going to those URL's that made the money? Silly rabbit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:45PM (#15047994)
    I had a run in with one of their people not too many months ago. I had been put on one of their spam mailing lists and I emailed their address to ask for my domain to be removed. Initially, I got a person who said that they wouldn't do it. When I replied and said that I would file a complaint with their upstream data provider, I found my email address mailbombed with additions to about 5000 mailing lists. Luckily these days most mailing lists ask for a confirmation and those that don't I weeding out pretty quick. The moron also didn't realize that most mailing lists confirm messages also include the IP of the subscriber. I replied again and included the draft letter to the upstream provider and a letter of the local police department's electronic crimes office for an attempted DoS attack, but this time someone else responded and apologized. Never heard from them again. Before the slashbots jump on me for replying to SPAM, I'd like to say that I've already paid the price.
  • I am honestly not trying to start a flame war or be a troll, just wanted to say what I feel. In some ways, I don't want the adware crap companies like 180 to go away. I make a lot of extra money off of companies like them. Heck, after I left my last job, this sort of crapware kept me employed for a few months until I got another decent job. We all know it's about money and money only. You think that ANY of these people care one bit about the damage to people's computer they cause, or they money these p
    • You're not directly claiming this, but you might want to read up on the broken window fallacy [wikipedia.org]. If you were not always fixing damage done by others, society could use your skills in a more productive manner.
      • Of course, the fallacy behind the fallacy is that it assumes he's capable of being used in a more productive manner...
        • Well, I have a hard time with the idea that the only productive thing he can do is remove spyware. :)

          But, I suppose if I really break down the economics, at least one of the following is true: 1. He could obtain higher pay elsewhere doing something else, and in an economic sense probably should, or 2. He can not obtain higher pay somewhere else, therefore this is the most valuable thing he can be doing, therefore if the spyware problem went away while he wouldn't necessarily be jobless, he would take a pay
      • I think it's more that his customers would spend their money on other things, thus helping the economy as a whole - I don't think you can argue that people breaking windows is anything but good for the glazier..
  • a "180" degree turn! :P
  • good news to me (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xamomike (831092)
    I welcome the day when adware/spyware companies start going out of business. These companies should expect that these are not long term ventures, and most people are very irratated by their software no matter how they try to present it. Yes, a small economy surrounds the business of spyware, but it's business based on mass numbers (i.e. casualties) and not by innovation, or any sort of usefullness. Just like the old days of selling blind-link traffic and 404 traffic, except we knew it had its days numbered.
  • by Brushen (938011) on Monday April 03, 2006 @01:54AM (#15048331)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Zango_Me ssenger&oldid=14840188 [wikipedia.org]

    Look at this Wikipedia revision, creating an article on a 180 Solutions product. Look at the history tab, and you will note this revision was done by the IP address 206.169.156.2. The IP address corresponds with 180 SOLUTIONS HOOKED-2 when looked up in the American Registry for Internet Numbers [arin.net].

    The article was changed to give it a more neutral tone many times, but in all cases the IP address tried to revert to the original version. The article in its current form is located here [wikipedia.org], but with a sign that says that everything in this article but not be accurate, nor true. The IP address range for 180 Solutions is 206.169.156.0 - 206.169.156.255. See this American Registry for Internet Numbers [arin.net] entry for 180 Solution's physical address. The city can be confirmed by Wikipedia itself.

    This was done in June 2005, around the same time the U.S. Congress staffers began editing Wikipedia, coincidentally. Again, using Wikipedia as a source, this company has less than 250 employees. Because this IP address came from the company, what are the odds that the editor created that article about that "instant messaging service" for love of the company alone? It reads like an advertisement.

    They used Wikipedia to market their filth, and spyware company or not, that's something I'll always hold in contempt. (mod up)

  • When your business revolves around shoving ads down consumers' throats with nothing in return, you're destined to fail.
  • I don't think they should be afraid to be unemploeyd. If ever anyone deserved to be the vistim of a drive by shooting, these f*ckers are top of the list.

    They are in the same league with Al-Quaieda when it comes to evil.

    They have destroyed billions of dollars of pruductivity and are probably directly responsible for the attitude that computers have to be thrown away on a regular basis because its easier to throw them away than get rid of the spyware.

  • http://www.revenews.com/wayneporter/archives/00056 5.html [revenews.com] Interesting to compare and contrast the official line with the anonymous version!
  • by Stanneh (775821)
    i am the designated pc fixer dude round here and 180 solutions has absolutely made my life a complete hell time after time. so to all the peaple who work at 180 solutions that are reading slashdot i hope each and every one of you die of cancer.
  • I had to read the first posts to remember when I had seen that name before.
    Then it all came back to me: Last week, as I wasted a few hours cleaning up a relative's computer, and was getting amazed at the seemingly endless list of malware that can fit on one single computer.
    At least, they didn't have a hidden service that refused to die and kept rewriting the same registry key every 2 seconds to guarantee it'd run next time the box reboots. (if you ever bump into that, setting a draconian ACL on the parent r
  • by smallpaul (65919) <paul AT prescod DOT net> on Monday April 03, 2006 @08:55AM (#15049227)
    How can an interview with an ex-employee be regarded as "An Interview with 180 Solutions?"

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