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Skype pushes gaming software down users throats

VoIP firm disables unintentional adware-style push

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Skype has further irked its users, already put out by an outage last week, by pushing a Windows add-on that installed itself on users' systems whether or not they gave it permission to install.

Auto-update functionality was used to push an update to the EasyBits Go games centre towards Windows users who used Skype Extras Manager. Users were given the option to ignore or abort the installation but these selections were ignored.

Worse still the add-on was difficult to uninstall.

EasyBits has partnered with Skype to offer online gaming for the last five years but the behaviour of its software recalls the sneaky tactics of adware hawkers and other distributors of potentially unwanted programs. The utility is not malign even though users could easily be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Skype has apologised for the snafu and disabled the update while it identifies and corrects the problem, as explained in a statement (extract below).

The software is provided by our partner EasyBits, and is part of the Skype Extras Manager. The Extras Manager has been included in Windows releases of our software since 2006. This latest update from EasyBits included elements of their desktop games organizer in error, but it neither installs nor un-installs correctly. This update has been disabled while we work with them to correct the problems and user experience.

Skype works closely with its partners to ensure that our users receive the best possible Skype experience and is working with EasyBits to ensure this issue does not happen again.

EasyBits blamed problems with the interface of its update installer for what it described as "unintentional installations". It published an uninstallation utility that removes the app from users' PCs.

EasyBits GO is NOT a malware, it is a legitimate application distributed by EasyBits Media as part of our scheduled update.

Unfortunately the user interface in the update installer has defects causing confusing user experience that leads to unintentional installations. EasyBits Media has confirmed this problem and currently has stopped the update process and implementing a fix. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused to Skype users.

EasyBits' statement tries to have it both ways by suggesting users happily accepted their unsolicited software gift. "Since the update, game sessions have jumped from 850,000 top daily game sessions to over 7 million game sessions globally yesterday," it boasted.

Separate problems last week meant that Skype's software hung up on users last week. Skype produced a workaround followed by an automatic update to its software that allowed users to log in to the VoIP service. The Skype Extras Manager update that foisted the EasyBits games utility on users, whether they asked for it or not, was separate to this core functionality update.

Even so, the whole incident suggests both that Skype's pre-release testing process is not as rigorous as it ought to be and that EasyBits seems to think users might rather like software forced down their throat, providing they give it a spin.

Neither stance does either firm much credit. ®

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