INFOSEC - Microsoft figures show some users may like adware

New statistics from Microsoft show the pervasiveness of dodgy security programs and other advertising software.

It would seem logical to think most Internet users are annoyed by software that causes pop-up advertisements to appear on their screens.

But new statistics released by Microsoft would indicate that not all users are clamoring to uninstall adware programs, even if they're flagged as somewhat suspicious by security software.

Microsoft's latest security data is particularly interesting because of the sheer number of machines that the company can electronically survey with one of its free security programs, the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT).

The MSRT is a low-end security tool that removes some of the most common classes of malicious software. The MSRT, which is an optional installation, scans machines once a month, and reports its findings back to Microsoft.

The software is on an astounding number of PCs: 450 million worldwide, according to Tim Rains, group product manager for Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group, which handles security issues. Rains made his presentation Tuesday at the Infosec security show in London.

Microsoft released data on Tuesday collected by the MSRT from July through December of 2007. The tool detected 129.5 million pieces of "potentially unwanted software," the term for programs that may have been intentionally installed by people but have certain suspicious functions in the eyes of security professionals.

Those programs can include advertising software and other dodgy security programs that claim a computer is in poor health, among others.

But Microsoft's data has a surprise: Of 129.5 million potentially unwanted programs detected by the MSRT, only 71.7 million were removed by users.

"Our customers choose to run some of this stuff," Rains said. "Some of them get some value from it. Some of them don't realize what they are doing. Some of them do. That's why we call them potentially unwanted. Some of them are legitimate companies with legitimate products. We don't want to make any value judgements on that."

But obviously, Microsoft and other security companies do that by flagging the programs in order to alert their users. The latest statistics reveal that some of the most persistent questionable programs on the Internet from the last few years still have huge numbers of users.

"The most prevalent rogue security software detected in the second half of 2007 was Win32/Winfixer, with more than five times as many detections as any other single family [of potentially unwanted programs]," said Microsoft's latest Internet Security Threat Report, released on Tuesday.

Winfixer often ends up installed on machines by exploiting vulnerabilities in the operating system or browser. Once on the machine, it displays persistent warnings that the machine is infected, and the user can pay around US$39.95 to fix the machine. It is extremely difficult to remove from a machine once it has been installed. The people who profit from Winfixer have been hard to track down.

The MSRT found close to 3.4 million instances of Winfixer running on machines, up more than 100 percent from the first half of 2007, the last time the company published statistics.

Of the top five malicious programs detected, two were Trojan downloaders, or small programs that can download other malicious programs onto a machine, and three adware programs.

Two of those adware programs, HotBar and ZangoSearchAssistant, are produced by Zango, an adware company in Bellevue, Washington. Zango was ordered by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in November to give up $3 million in ill-gotten gains from its adware operations, which at times used deceptive means to get people to install the software.

Microsoft said it detected 7.1 million instances of HotBar, and 4.9 million instances of the ZangoSearchAssisant.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?