Feb 14, 2005
Update: Feb 20, 2005
Lavasoft has reversed the decision to delist WhenU. A new article will cover this later today or tomorrow.
It appears that two popular antispyware companies, PestPatrol (owned by Computer Associates) and Lavasoft, have stopped detecting software from WhenU. In tests performed recently by Eric Howes, using the latest updated target database files, neither PestPatrol nor Ad-aware detected any software from WhenU.
WhenU makes ad serving software which is bundled with unrelated programs available for download for free from the internet. WhenU's software includes Save!, SaveNow and ClockSync. According to a PCPitstop user survey, 87% of persons with WhenU software on their computer had no idea how it became installed.
What led to the decision to delist WhenU's software after years of listing it as a target? One possible explanation is a recent change in the way WhenU's software is bundled into certain other programs. For instance, in the newest version of Bearshare, it is made very obvious that WhenU will be installed.
The Bearshare bundle has a very clear disclosure of WhenU and is a dramatic improvement over past versions. At present, it seems that only the Bearshare installer contains the new and improved WhenU disclosure. Other programs which bundle it still use the older, less acceptable methods.
Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure the reasons behind Lavasoft's and PestPatrol's apparent decision to cease targeting WhenU. There was no announcement from Lavasoft about removing WhenU's software from their target database. Questions from users about the absence of WhenU from Lavasoft's Ad-aware so far have gone unanswered.
This is highly unusual, as Lavasoft typically lists the addition or removal of targets, when they announce that a new target database file is available for download. PestPatrol reportedly did announce their decision to remove WhenU's software as a target of their software but that announcement has disappeared from their web site.
The absence of WhenU in the newest targeting databases does not appear to be an error by either company. Both Lavasoft and PestPatrol have deleted nearly all mention of WhenU from their online spyware databases. On the PestPatrol web site's list of Most Prevalent Pests, WhenU software is listed in four different places. However, if you click on the link to read more information about the software, you are presented with a Computer Associates search engine that shows zero results for the WhenU software name. When searching for WhenU in Lavasoft's Threat Assessment Chart, there is no information at all about WhenU.
This is all very curious. Why would the makers of two of the most popular antispyware programs remove detection for WhenU without announcing it and then erase all mention of WhenU from their web sites? At the very least, they owe it to their users to announce that their software no longer will detect WhenU. People depend on these programs to find and remove any software that they may not want. An explanation of why WhenU no longer is detected would also be nice.
In an even stranger development, it turns out that Aluria's Spyware Eliminator is detecting WhenU's software. Aluria announced last year that they had certified WhenU's software to be spyware free and removed WhenU software as a target. Aluria even partnered with WhenU to produce software. It was a surprising and unpopular decision that cost Aluria the goodwill and trust of much of the antispyware community.
There is no explanation for WhenU's sudden reappearance as a target on Aluria's targeting database. None of WhenU's products appear in Aluria's online spyware database.
It is possible that Aluria is detecting WhenU's software in error. AOL provides a branded version of Aluria's Spyware Eliminator to AOL members. After the controversial decision to certify WhenU as spyware free, AOL made it clear that they would require Aluria to continue to provide detection for WhenU in the version of Aluria's software which is distributed by AOL to its members. Quite possibly, Aluria has included the AOL version of their target database file in the general public version of their Spyware Eliminator program.
Aluria's current detection of WhenU might be a simple error. The actions of Lavasoft and PestPatrol do not appear to be errors. They appear to have removed detection for a very prevalent adware, one whose presence is often a surprise to the people who find it on their computers, and they both appear to have carried out a systematic erasure of WhenU from their online databases. Lavasoft and PestPatrol users deserve an explanation for these actions, not a cover up.
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