Popular internet search engine Google is starting to warn users about
websites that could harm their computers â or worse â if entered.
Users will be warned before they enter sites that distribute "badware"
â malicious software that feeds the user's information to marketers
who then send targeted ads â that can cause their computers to slow
down or crash.
"There have been reported cases of identity theft" from badware,
StopBadware.org said in announcing the Google move. The group, led
by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and
Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute, calls itself a
"neighbourhood watch" campaign aimed at becoming the centre of the
fight against badware.
The warnings on Google will appear when users click on a link to a site
that has been identified as harmful by the StopBadware coalition.
Badware "tracks your moves online and feeds that information back to
shady marketing groups so that they can ambush you with targeted ads,"
the coalition's website says.
Spyware: software that covertly gathers user information through the
user's internet connection, usually for advertising purposes. Once
installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the internet and
transmits that information in the background to someone else. Spyware can
also gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords and
credit card numbers.
Malware: Short for malicious software, software designed specifically to
damage or disrupt a system, such as a virus or a Trojan horse.
Deceptive adware: a form of spyware that collects information about the
user in order to display advertisements in the user's web browser based
on the information it collects from the user's browsing patterns.
Millions of computer users have downloaded badware without being aware of
it because some manufacturers bundle it with other programs, or put their
programs on computers when users visit certain websites or play online
games, the coalition site says.
"It is big business, amounting to a 08 billion-a-year industry. It's the
Wild West of aggressive marketing and an industry supported by shadowy
online marketers, small application vendors and website operators," the
coalition site says.
Prominent technology companies are backing StopBadware, including Google,
Lenovo and Sun Microsystems. The U.S. Consumer Reports WebWatch is an
unpaid advisor, the site says.