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AOL 9.0 Called Badware 295

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the been-called-worse dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The bad news at AOL keeps coming. First they get in trouble for releasing search data on more than half a million customers, then it gives away security software with a nasty EULA, now its free client software is accused of acting like badware according to Stopbadware.org, the Google-funded rating group."
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AOL 9.0 Called Badware

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  • Erm (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:02PM (#15994722)
    Keywords: google funded
  • conflict? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by johnnyringo (202714) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:05PM (#15994741)
    AOL releases free software- to compete with google.
    Google funds 'badware' company saying AOL is... bad.
    that is pretty funny
  • by BlahMatt (931052) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:05PM (#15994744)
    Does this mean people actually believed that old versions of AOL were good? From what I can recall AOL has never been good. Perhaps it didn't act with malicious purpose, but it has, in my opinion, never been good and I certainly recall several occasions in my previous support job where it ended up being the cause of problems with totally unrelated software. My apologies to any AOL supporters out there, but this is looking like the end for AOL.
  • The horror (Score:2, Insightful)

    by giorgiofr (887762) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:07PM (#15994760)
    Big Internet company claims competitor's product is bad bad bad.
    I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:09PM (#15994775)
    When you are in a hole, stop digging.
  • by indytx (825419) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:10PM (#15994781)
    From the article:

    The suite is also criticized for engaging in "deceptive installation" and faulted because some components fail to uninstall.

    This is just ridiculous. Why are there so many programs that refuse to uninstall or leave pieces of themselves lying around? How hard can it be for the "uninstall" function to actually work? Worse, do I really need several dialog boxes to get rid of something? I can always install it again. It's not like I'm wiping my hard drive.

  • by Moqui (940533) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:11PM (#15994792)
    AOL 9.0 Security Edition was released 11/18/04. This is relevant for today how? Everything in retrospect is bad for you.
  • Re:badware? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:13PM (#15994803)
    "Bad" is in English what "Mal" is in Latin/Greek. Badware is adware, spyware, viruses, rootkits, worms, trojans, and anything else I'm not thinking of that John Q. Public doesn't want on his PC. "Trojans" are sort of an abstract concept for most (they think of the condom before the Trojan horse), but any idiot knows that "badware" is, well, BAD.
  • This is news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonHawk (21256) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:13PM (#15994813) Homepage Journal
    From the summary: "...its free client software is accused of acting like badware..."

    This is news? Everyone I know has been saying that for *years* about AOL and their software. It tries to take over your system, has odd compatability problems, is extremely difficult to remove, and bombards you with ads. And that's when you *pay* for it!
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:15PM (#15994828)
    I wonder what the "Google Toolbar" rates...
  • duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by matt328 (916281) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:25PM (#15994901)
    AOL has been badware since its inception. Even back in the day with version 3.0, why the hell did we need an entire goddamn program just to establish a dial up connection?
  • Re:This is news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by legoburner (702695) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:27PM (#15994914) Homepage Journal
    Even back in the windows 95 era it would mess up your dial up networking settings to prevent you from connecting to other ISPs using DUN. Many a support query about that fun feature went flying around.
  • Re:LOL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pmancini (20121) <pmancini.yahoo@com> on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:33PM (#15994963) Homepage
    Its more like a concerned stock holder voicing a concern. I own a good chunck of the company I work for and if they were to screw up I'd get on them to fix things too. Its not uncommon to see stake holders do this sort of thing because it protects your bottomline.

    Lets face it though, hasn't AOL been "badware" since like 1991? ;-)
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:35PM (#15994981) Journal
    I've recently been approached by several different people (most recently, the concierge at my office building) about why their internet is so slow recently. Stupid me, I forgot to ask if they used a portal... I gave them a sheet with instructions for cleaning out malware, and it didn't seem to help them. Then one of them informed me she uses AOL. Turns out, they all did. I told them all to uninstall AOL, cancel their account (good luck with that!) and use Firefox instead of IE.

    My protocol for handling 'computer slowness' requests from acquaintances now begins with "Do you use AOL?".
  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:36PM (#15994987) Journal
    Spyware has a conotation of being, you know, about _spying_ on the user. Malware implies some malicious intent. Etc. That's stuff which not only doesn't cover all the crap out there (e.g., yes, how about stuff that keeps nagging me after I thought I uninstalled it?), but also is attackable -- and indeed attacked -- in courts on technicality grounds. You get people like Claria/Gator sending legal nastygrams around just because they're prepared to argue in court about some technicality in that classification.

    "Badware", while maybe it does sound like a kindergarten word, tends to convey the broader meaning and not get bogged in such lexical arguments. It doesn't imply malicious _intent_ or have to fit any definition of spying or whatever else these fucktards argue in court. It's just "bad".

    And, frankly, as an end-user I don't care why or with what intent it was written like that. E.g., if a toolbar or anti-virus is a nightmare to uninstall and leaves components running after I uninstalled it, it's "bad". I don't care if it's like that by malice or if Hanlon's Razor applies. ("Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.") It's just "bad" and they better clean up their act.

    To give a personal example, I had an experience like that with one of those MacAffee all-in-one security packages. An older version, but annoying anyway. Among the many problems it had, picture this: so when installing I installed it on D:, to free space on C:. But the first update installed itself in the default directory in C: anyway. But here's the stupid part: it also let the original version from D: running at the same time, so I had two anti-viruses running at the same time, slowing my machine to a crawl. So I uninstall it. Ok, it uninstalled the newly installed one from C:, but left the old one still installed and still running. Only this time without an uninstall, so I had to manually edit the registry and remove files to get rid of it.

    I'm sure that Hanlon's Razor fully applies there. It was no malice, there was no intention to spy, it's just written by the cheapest incompetent monkeys. But it's "bad" anyway. So "Badware" seems to fit that just nicely.
  • by bogie (31020) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:41PM (#15995015) Journal
    If it was just a few preferences left behind then there probably won't be any issue. But have a look at this screenshot. http://stopbadware.org/images/screenshots/AOL/AOL1 1.html [stopbadware.org]

    Two processes are left running and sucking up memory. The programmer who is charge of the unistall routine should be tarred and feathered and then forbidden from ever working in the field again. Beyond the obvious issue think about this. Aol 9.0.3343 is updated to 9.0.4000 because of a massive security flaw in AOLServiceHost.exe. You uninstalled AOL before the update came out and yet there sits part of the old version of AOL running as part of your OS just inviting trouble.
  • After all, it is often computers owned by people like the average Joe Schmoe which get compromised and are used to send spam or propagate worms.

    Let's talk about Joe Schmoe for a second here. Joe Schmoe is probably a decent guy, and not necessarily dumb. It's just that he has a job, bills to pay, hobbies, and with any luck, a wife/girlfriend, and maybe kids. He thinks of his computer as he thinks of his washing machine. He buys it at a big box store, spends an hour or so setting it up, and then he uses it as a tool. When it breaks, he calls Geek Squad or the smart nerdy kid down the street, just like if the washing machine breaks, he calls the repair guy from Sears.

    He doesn't look at a PC as a car, he thinks of it as a washing machine. We need to educate him about how to use it safely (SP2, patches, and AV for starters), and acting all high-and-mighty about it gets you nowhere.
  • by Rary (566291) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:51PM (#15995080)

    "Uninstalling is not a trivial problem."

    Yes, it is.

    "What happens if the program installs a shared library?"

    You answered your own question quite nicely, actually.

    "...although both of these require everyone to play by the rules."

    And for those who don't, that would be their problem. If you play by the rules, your install and uninstall will go smoothly.

    "And what about configuration files? ... The uninstaller needs to know which of these I'm doing"

    Ask. Lots of uninstallers do this.

    Uninstalling is only a problem if you want it to be a problem. Sadly, lots of companies want it to be a problem to remove their software.

  • by brunascle (994197) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:52PM (#15995085)
    ...the worst tech product of all time [pcworld.com]
  • by thelost (808451) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:53PM (#15995105) Journal
    this is called full disclosure. deal with it. Lenovo and Sun also sponsor StopBadware.org, big deal. Whether or not google have alternate reasons for getting behind a push like this they have a history of philanthropic work, I am not surprised to find them involved.
  • Why is that? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @02:04PM (#15995184)
    This in no way benefits Google. It is not the same way that MS funds FUD to help itself. The group's mission has no hidden agenda. It is not trying to make a profit by putting down a different group. It is simply pointing out bad software.

    Though, I am trying to figure out how the H#$l you got upgraded. I would guess that at least one of the mods is from a FUDster. In addition, your mod ups point out the changing nature of slashdot. All in all, I am guessing that we have MAJOR artificial turfing going on here.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @02:25PM (#15995305)
    One thing that annoys me as much as "badware," is sites that publish news items with misleading or incorrect headlines, especially when thay are attention-grabbing or inflammatory. I'm no friend of AOL, having dumped them ages ago and counseling friends who have it to dump it, but the article says:

    "group advises users to steer clear of the software because of its "badware behavior."
    "Because AOL has taken steps to address StopBadware.org's concerns, the group has held off on officially rating AOL 9.0 as badware..."

    Yet your headline claims "AOL 9.0 called Badware." That is simply incorrect. They said it has "badware behavior," which you might feel is the same as calling something badware, but they specifically say in the next paragraph that the group have "held off on officially rating [AOL 9.0] as badware..." By labeling your article this way, you are misrepresenting the PC World article which you reference (AOL 9.0 Accused of Behaving Like Badware), and distorting the news. You lose credibility when you do this.
  • I use a Mac. In fact, I am typing this on an iBook, waiting for my Mac Pro order to come in (31 more days...). I don't think it's Joe Schmoe's fault. I am not blaming anyone. I'm saying we need to fix it. Windows needs to be more secure. Patching needs to be easier for Joe Schmoe. But most of all, Joe Schmoe needs more education than "PCs have viruses. I'm a Mac, and I'm virus free". We need to accept that most relatively unskilled home users will continue to use Windows on their desktops. We need to educate them how to use Windows safely, or adapt the internet to the fact that there are thousands of hostile bots out there.
  • by gsn (989808) on Monday August 28, 2006 @02:45PM (#15995457)
    I'd actually ask them to require stricter standards especially at installation

    1) Program has option to install in any directory you choose - surprise how many of them lack this even
    2) Make start menu and desktop shortcuts wherever you choose - I hate ones that just add three icons to my desktop
    3) Make no folders other than in the one they are installed in or that you specify - When Reader 7.0 came out I was constantly deleting that bloody myEbooks crap until I figured out how to stop it.
    4) Do not add themselves to startup with windows automatically - I didn't say you could be resident just so that you can pop up your damn app at the slightest click of the mouse. Again bloody Adobe and iTunes do this.
    5) Software that requires administrator privleges to install or run needlessly - I'm thinking CoD2
    6) Any additional software installed without consent which is not required to run the application - iTunes and Quicktime
    7) Any software that changes file associations by itself - give me the option and I will tell you what I'm going to let you open automatically.
    7) Anything that does not give you a single entry in the Add Remove Programs List.

    These are pretty basic and ought to be good manners as far as software is concerned.

    Frankly badware should also include any software that is written poorly and is bloated and uses excessive memory and even things that give you a bloody skin without an option to change back to the default. I've worked hard to keep the classic windows interface with XP and I certainly don't want to see some stupid app like iTunes (or Winamp but there are windows skins) looking however they want without giving me the option to turn it off. I like my boring grey and I'm going to keep it that way.
  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Monday August 28, 2006 @02:51PM (#15995507)
    AOL has ALWAYS been regarded as "badware" by anyone who can use a toothpick. AOL falls into every kind of malicious software category there is. Malware, Adware, Spyware, Spamware...AOL fits all of those pretty damn well, and the new title of "Badware" just goes to show how horrible the program and service is. I hope AOL stock tanks and the business goes belly up. It DESERVES to. AOL is a marketing ploy in the purest sense.

    AOL is:

    Malware: AOL has elements in it that allow it to hijack the MSN Explorer web browser (which is why I use Mozilla FireFox). AOL programs also have a habit of installing countless time-consuming updates, which are just nothing more that a few actual programming patches mixed in among more desktop internet shortcuts for marketing tie-ins. Also, as I have experienced in some of my previous systems, it can cause conflicts with Windows (yeah, I know...Linux) that are more often than not, caused by the AOL program self-installing bundled software (more marketing tie-ins).

    Spyware: Well, we already have heard plenty about that one so I don't need to explain it.

    Spamware: Customers are routinely sent emails for new services. Each new "service" is the same thing with a new name.

    Adware: Serves up a smorgasbord of advertisements with each new window opened. Windows abound with cheap gimmicks that only lead to the user being asked to purchase something. Most "news" stories or information has some kind of marketing/sales tie-in, as do just about every service AOL offers. Customers (I once was, when 14.4 dialup was the rage) are constantly poked and prodded with sales pitches. Each new "service is actually just another sales pitch/marketing scheme with a fresh new wrapper on it.

    Badware: If you read all of the above, you get the point. If you still dont't get it, you will be lucky to master a beltbuckle.

    AOL just doesn't get it..... People are leaving them because they are just wayyy too obsessed with advertising. AOL has made itself the society's posterchild of advertising run amok.

    -----

    Sig Sauer
  • To some extent this is already happening. I'm an In-home technician for a major electronics retailer and I can tell you that if you buy a PC in a retail store like ours, the sales people will pound into you the idea of in-home setup, virus protection, etc. The problem is that people will find a way around it if it'll save them a few bucks. People can be told it's better for a pro to configure it but they'll take their chances for a slightly smaller bill. Even if we made it mandatory with every purchase, people would just go elsewhere for "cheaper" pc's without the service. And even with the AV/AS installed and a pro setup they're not enough to combat consumer ineffectualism. I can't count how many times customers come in with virus-ridded pc's and tell us they "just ignore the anti-virus pop-up thingy" asking to do a scan.....
  • by Joe Mucchiello (1030) on Monday August 28, 2006 @03:21PM (#15995689) Homepage
    Failing that, Dells should all come with the firewall on, and AV and anti-spyware installed and running with a 6 month subscription, as well as a note (in dead tree form) reminding the user that he needs to update and renew the stuff in 6 months.

    No, they shouldn't. Most AV software is notoriously impossible to uninstall without destroying your current OS install. If they choose an AV, anti-spy, firewall package I don't like, I need to reinstall the OS before I can use the computer, and most computers don't come with an installable OS option. They come with a restore to factory default and that default includes the stupid firewall, anti-spy and AV software I don't want.

  • by atokata (872432) on Monday August 28, 2006 @03:42PM (#15995796)
    You know, a more cynical person, after reading about how our esteemed legislature is just *drooling* all over the idea of heavily regulating the internet, and after reading several stories about how politically-backed PR firms have been increasingly 'astroturfing*' internet forums and other community based sites, might start to think that all these nearly identical messages from ACs advocating a "driver's license for the internet" are some form of covert propaganda.

    A more cynical person, someone experienced with both politics and the internet, might think that messages like this, posted with such similar wording, with such a similar idea being conveyed, could be 'testing the waters,' to see how the techies might respond to such a proposal.

    A more cynical person might think that some senator or congressman, perhaps something involving Ted Stevens, is feeling out the idea of floating a bill, maybe something called "The Internet Security Act," or "The National Data Protection Act," or even the "Save the Children from Internet Pedophiles Act," where compulsory licensing is hidden away within.

    A more cynical person would probably realize that all those license fees would simply disappear into heavily pork-filled projects, the main beneficiaries of which would be gigantic corporations, probably technology based, but equally likely to be ConAgra, Exxon, United Defense, or Halliburton. Even a simpleton would know the license fees do nothing to benefit them.

    A cynical person might already know that as soon as a license becomes madatory, a huge revenue stream is created by fining those individuals who are unlicensed. Just like parking tickets, tax penalties, and code violations, this money will go to supporting even more regulations.

    A cynical person would suspect that an unlicensed computer would become basis for sneak-and-peeks, no-knock-raids, and unwarrented wiretapping. A cynical person knows that countries like Cuba, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia already have laws regarding licensing of internet access. Sure has helped them, hasn't it?

    A more cynical person might think that kind of thing, indeed.


    *Astroturfing: In American politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations projects which deliberately seek to engineer the impression of spontaneous, grassroots behavior. The goal is the appearance of independent public reaction to a politician, political group, product, service, event, or similar entities by centrally orchestrating the behavior of many diverse and geographically distributed individuals.
  • by soft_guy (534437) on Monday August 28, 2006 @03:48PM (#15995848)
    You get paid to fix problems - I get paid to prevent them.
  • by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:03PM (#15996262)
    I recognize the difference between a washing machine and a computer. but I'm a computer science major, and I have about 30 posts on slashdot today. But everyone else has other interests. There are rocket scientists whose password is "password" (or would be if they could get away with it). All I'm saying is that we need to educate people better, and we can't expect the world of them unless we're willing to sit down and teach them stuff. Threatening to take away computers won't work, because all the big companies will oppose it, and Joe Schmoe will oppose it.
  • by sco08y (615665) on Monday August 28, 2006 @06:59PM (#15996907)
    First of all, people *do* operate cars without a thought to safety.

    A better example to prove your point: I was watching an auto insurance ad that showed testimonials of people saying "I saved enough money on my insurance to buy (fishing gear / a camera / etc)"

    Yeah, you'll be really fucking happy with that fishing rod when you get in a wreck and see that $20,000 doesn't cover shit.
  • Failing that, Dells should all come with the firewall on, and AV and anti-spyware installed and running with a 6 month subscription, as well as a note (in dead tree form) reminding the user that he needs to update and renew the stuff in 6 months.

    Or Dells should start shipping with an OS that's more resilient to viruses and spyware. I'm not MS-bashing, it can be Vista for all I care (assuming Vista fits that description). Part of the problem is that the most popular security software (McAfee and Norton) are absolutely terrible, suck up computer resources, and cost too much.

    I've known a lot of users who won't buy security software because they view it as an unreasonable cost. They've just bought a new computer, and now they're supposed to spend $100 a year to make it work properly? Plus, half the time these security package break as much as they fix. Suddenly users programs stop working or they can't connect to something because the firewall is blocking it.

    That's just from the Joe Schmo perspective. From a more expert perspective, it still doesn't make sense, since much of what the security software does is plug up Microsoft's poorly designed security. Maybe I'm just spoiled by open-source software, but being able to operate a computer securely doesn't seem to me to be something people should have to pay extra for. It seems like it'd be better if security were open to the public for review, analysis, and optimization anyhow.

  • by alanshot (541117) <{rurick} {at} {techondemand.net}> on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @12:03AM (#15997947)
    From the article... "An AOL spokesman said that it is "clearly ridiculous" to categorize his company's software as badware. "No company has done more to fight malware than AOL, and millions of users are protected by our software every day,"

    Isnt this like the author of "virtual bouncer" claiming that they shouldnt be classified as malware/adware, simply because they remove adware/malware themselves? Yes, they removed all BUT the adware that pays them, but they still remove MOST adware/malware, therefore they should be considered good.

    This is like paying the mafia to protect you from criminals... who will protect you from your protectors?

    I cant even begin to count the number of PCs I have seen with the TCP/IP stack hosed due to an AOHell software corruption... and when you call support. "can you connect to AOL? you can? but you cant get other apps to talk to the internet when you are connected to AOL(MSN messenger, outlook express, etc)? oooh... sooory.... not our problem. our browser dials and surfs OK so you are on your own... not our problem."

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