Avast Identifies Subscription Traps as Malicious

A number of websites that offer software trick unsuspecting users into installing toolbars and other unwanted applications. Avast revealed its intentions of appointing downloads originating from these types of sites as being malware.

Last week the German government issued a law against the Internet scammers that dupe users into subscribing to paid services while trying to download applications that are supposedly free.

Until this law is extended to cover sites that bundle their products with unsolicited toolbars and other features Avast decided to catalogue these downloads as malware.

“We at AVAST wish that the law against internet scammers and subscription traps would be extended. An end user neither wants his account to be hacked nor does he want his PC to be equipped with dubious toolbars using fictitious facts, and which henceforth provide him with unwanted ads and pass on his Facebook data,” Avast’s Thomas Wespel writes.

A perfect example of a site that relies on such schemes to serve undesired content is winload.de. If users download an application before verifying the checkboxes above the Download button, they end up with a toolbar that allows the operator to change the default search engine in the Internet browser and change the homepage.

But that’s not all. Once the toolbar is installed its operators are permitted to install updates on the affected PC, send notifications to the user, collect location-based data, add a different “page not found” functionality, and even collect information from the internaut’s social network account.

Of course, the customer is warned that the toolbar will be installed, but not with a message written in big, red letters that pops up on the screen. Instead he/she is notified with a piece of text written somewhere above the Download button.

Even worse, before being informed by Avast, the “fine print” was displayed somewhere under the Download button.

These types of scams don’t target only German users, instead this is a perfect example of a situation that can happen to anyone worldwide.

This is why, until state authorities decide to do something about this phenomenon, internauts are advised to take a minute and verify all the checkboxes on a download page before rushing to get the application.


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