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Symantec ask court to rule Hotbar.com as adware

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Symantec has filed suit in defence of its right to produce tools that classify programs from Hotbar.com as adware. Symantec is not seeking damages as part of the suit. Instead the security giant is asking a court to rule that certain Hotbar program files are indeed adware and can be treated as computer security risks.

"By asking the court for clarification on this issue in our favour, we hope to continue alerting our customers about the presence of these program files, protecting them against possible security risks," said Joy Cartun, senior director of legal affairs for Symantec. "Through this effort, we're trying to ensure that our customers have more control over the programs that run on their computers."

The suit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division this week days after TRUSTe, the online privacy group, revoked Hotbar.com's right to display its seal of approval.

Hotbar.com distributes a variety of Web browser toolbars with changeable "skins", email tools and screensaver programs, many of which are designed to appeal to children. These tools come bundled with packages that deliver targeted pop-up ads. Hotbar.com's distribution practices have put it at odds with some security vendors. Last month the firm fired off a legal letter to anti-spyware firm Sunbelt Software asking it to stop classifying its wares as adware. Sunbelt is sticking to its guns by insisting that Hotbar.com's wares meet its classification for adware.

Symantec's lawsuit seeks to clarify the legal status of Hotbar.com's software. The case is sure to be closely watched in the industry not least because of the ongoing efforts of many adware firms to clean up their public image and force security firms to stop classifying their packages as malware.

In other spyware-related news, Dell said that better customer awareness and sales of security software subscriptions had halved the number of support calls it was receiving about spyware-related problems over the last year. Over the same period security software subscriptions among Dell customers have more than tripled, Mike George, VP of Dell's consumer business, told Louisiana legislators during a hearing on consumer security earlier this week. ®

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