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180Solutions sues former affiliates over illegal tactics

Bad actors 'used botnets', protests adware firm

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Adware maker 180solutions has sued seven former distributors for using networks of compromised computers to surreptitiously install its software on users' PCs. The complaint, filed in King County Superior Court, names defendants Eric de Vogt of the Netherlands, Jesse Donohue of Australia, Khalil Halel of Lebanon, Imran Patel of the UK, Zarox Souchi of Canada, Youri Van Den Berg of the Netherlands and Anton Zagar of Slovenia.

180Solutions is coming down hard on affiliates that install its software without user consent as part of plans to remake its image. Distributing 180solutions software without displaying proper notification or obtaining user consent is in "direct violation of the company's strict Distributor Code of Conduct" and runs afoul of pending federal legislation, it said.

"Our top priority is to ensure that everyone who has downloaded 180solutions software has done so through proper notification and consent prior to installation," said Daniel Todd, co-founder and president of 180solutions. "We have implemented strong policing efforts to detect distributor wrongdoing, and have a no-tolerance policy through our Distributor Code of Conduct. When we discover a partner in violation of our code, we shut them down and, when necessary, take legal action to avert future bad behavior."

180solutions said it has shut down 500 of its more than 8,000 distributors due to alleged transgression since January 2005. It added that consumer education is part of efforts to "put bad actors out of business and clean up distribution channels". The firm earmarked any damages arising from its litigation to start a fund to "foster pro-consumer practices for downloadable software".

In June, 180solutions embarked on an image makeover with a campaign to notify users that its software is installed on their systems and tips on removing its software. It began re-notifying each of its 20m "active users" that its software was on the their PC, explaining the software's purpose and providing uninstall instructions.

180solutions came under pressure to clean up its act on several fronts such as threats of litigation, financial pressure from investors and blacklisting by anti-spyware firms. Anti-spyware consortium Coast collapsed in April weeks after its decision to admit 180solutions, which describes itself as a provider of search marketing solutions, to its ranks. CA (here) and other vendors such as McAfee (here) describe 180solutions' software as adware. 180solutions said that the adware accusation, which it contests, is in any case outdated. ®

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