Symantec, What are you doing? ~ Security Garden

Monday, February 09, 2009

Symantec, What are you doing?

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The Good:

For some time, Symantec's anti-virus product had a reputation for being bloated. Then along came the Norton Internet Security 2009 package and with it rave reviews. The improvements included a leaner footprint, improved speed, white listing and other technologies to mark clean files as trusted, as well as continued free technical support.

AV-Comparatives.org reported the product achieving ADVANCED+ in detection tests and proactive ADVANCED due to improved heuristics. The biggest improvement noted by AV-Comparatives.org was the impact on system resources, with the new version running light on the system and no major impact on performance.

The Bad:

Could it be that that Symantec was not able to build sales on the favorable press results and bundling with Hewlett Packard and Dell computers? Instead, Symantec announced a partnership with IAC/Ask:

"Oakland, CA and Cupertino, CA – Feb. 03, 2009 – Leading search engine Ask.com, an operating business of IAC (Nasdaq: IACI) with 76 million monthly unique users, and Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC), whose Norton brand is the world’s security market share leader for consumer software and services, today announced a multi-year, strategic partnership to deliver the best answers and even safer search results on the Web."

The Ugly:

If you can get past the Symantec self-promotion in the above quote, I suggest that you read Ben Edelman's report in Current Practices of IAC/Ask Toolbars and learn more than you ask for:

"As the fifth-biggest search engine, Ask faces a clear problem: How to get users to leave their favored search engines, to conduct their searches at Ask instead? One Ask strategy is to buys ads on TV and in other media, claiming to offer a better product. But Ask also drives traffic to its search engine by enticing users to install its toolbars. This article looks at Ask's current and recent toolbar practices, including:

  • Promoting its toolbars on sites targeted to kids. Details.
  • Promoting its toolbars through ads that appear to be part of other companies' sites. Details.
  • Promoting its toolbars through other companies' spyware. Details.
  • Installing without any disclosure whatsoever and without any consent whatsoever. Details.
  • Soliciting installations via "deceptive door openers" that do not accurately describe the offer; failing to affirmatively show a license agreement; linking to a EULA via an off-screen link. Details.
  • Making confusing changes to users' browsers -- increasing Ask's revenues while taking users to pages they didn't intend to visit. Details.

Throughout, I compare these practices to the statements of Ask's staff, and I compare these practices with applicable legal and ethical duties."

Understand that IAC pays vendors per install of their product. Thus, the pre-checked option to include the toobar in products such as Check Point's ZoneAlarm Firewall, Webroot, Comodo Firewall, and StopZilla has resulted in their inclusion in the Calendar of Updates (CoU) Installers Hall of Shame.

Tell me, are you ready to pay $39.99 (U.S.) for Norton Antivirus 2009 and get the "bonus" IAC software included?

IAC/Ask References:
Hat Tip: Donna's Security Flash



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