Microsoft awards MVP status to 'adware' distributor

Microsoft has come under fire for awarding MVP status to an adware distributor

Microsoft has come under fire for naming the developer of a program that can install adware on users' PCs as one of its Most Valued Professionals.

MVPs are people with deep knowledge of Microsoft products who volunteer to answer technical questions for other users or contribute to its software in significant ways. It's a prestigious recognition, with only about 2,600 MVPs worldwide.

Microsoft recently added Cyril Paciullo to its MVP list. He's the developer of Messenger Plus, a free plug-in that adds some handy features to Microsoft's Windows Messenger program, like the ability to stack several chat windows together and access them via tabs.

But security experts say his software is also a distribution vehicle for Lop, which they describe as a nasty adware program.

"Bottom line is, Microsoft are rewarding someone that has an active involvement with one of the most maligned names in PC hijacking," said Christopher Boyd, a Microsoft Security MVP who's also director of malware research for FaceTime Security Labs. "If that isn't booberific, I don't know what is," he wrote in his blog.

Lop is a family of adware programs which will, among other things, generate pop-up advertisements and install misleading icons on a user's desktop, according to Sunbelt Software, a security company that also noted Paciullo's MVP award with interest.

Messenger Plus does provide users with the option to not install its accompanying "sponsor program." But Pacuillo's involvement with adware makes his MVP appointment questionable and also devalues the program, critics said.

"Yeah, it now gives you an option as to whether you want to install it or not -- but that's hardly the point, is it?" Boyd wrote in his blog.

"Note that he does give the option to infect your machine (and quite politely, at that). But it's still Lop," Sunbelt Software said.

Paciullo, who goes by the alias Patchou, could not be reached for comment on Friday. He says in a frequently asked questions section on his Web site that the sponsor program is not dangerous and can be uninstalled easily. He acknowledges that some adware programs flag his software, but says that's because they can't distinguish between "a clean adware solution and nasty spyware."

Microsoft also did not immediately comment. It's own malware protection engine flags Messenger Plus as a threat, according to Boyd.

Paciullo is not new to criticism. His software has been a target for another Microsoft Security MVP, Sandi Hardmeier, who runs a blog called Spyware Sucks.

Paciullo has made some changes to Messenger Plus in response to Hardmeier's criticisms, Hardmeier wrote in her blog. Version 3.63, introduced April, no longer installs a toolbar and resets the browser home page, she said. But it does generate pop-up windows that try to install Active X controls on a PC, she said, including one that's known to use rootkits, making it still "malware" in her book.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Niccolai

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?