Why the new “Software Informer client” will hurt Giveaway of the Day more than help it

Update: Giveaway of the Day has fixed the false virus/malware readings so this post isn’t accurate anymore. Please read this post for more information.

Simply put, this is why:

2009-08-15_164401

The above screenshot is a scan done by VirusTotal of the Setup.exe included in the download for today’s giveaway Aplus Total DVD Ripper. The same detections were made for the download of yesterday’s giveaway Batch Picture Resizer.

As I mentioned in my comment on Giveaway of the day for Batch Picture Resizer, unless GOTD is trying to pull a fast one on thousands of people by infesting all our computers with viruses and using the new Software Informer bundle as a cover (ha-ha), these are false positives caused by the Software Informer client in giveaways (it will be included in all giveaways from now on; you are not forced to install it – you can always opt out). These third party client/toolbar things often cause alerts with security software so there is no real need to worry… yet.

In my humble opinion, this new Software Informer bundle is going to hurt Giveaway of the Day in multiple, and lasting, ways. Why? I shall explain.

  • Less visitors

For us Giveaway of the Day regulars, we understand that GOTD is a clean website. However for new people who come to GOTD daily, detecting a virus (even if it is a false positive) will turn them away very quickly.

Also, when a security software detects a virus or malware in a file the security software just about makes it hell for you to try to install (at least Avira does this anyway). So if people are unable to install giveaways (even if they trust the giveaway is clean) less people will visit GOTD.

  • Public relations nightmare

Website rating services, like WOT and SiteAdvisor, now very well may start marking Giveawayoftheday.com as a dangerous or undesirable website. Furthermore, just by word of mouth people will start to learn that the giveaways given out by GOTD are detected as malware.

  • A dent in advertisement revenue

With less people visiting Giveawayoftheday.com and downloading the giveaways, GOTD will quickly become less popular. A less popular website means less and less companies will be willing to pay to advertise on GOTD. Also, the fact that (if) website rating security services like WOT and SiteAdvisor give Giveawayoftheday.com a bad rating, advertisers will again be reluctant to pay to advertise on a website with a bad name.

  • Malicious people will take advantage

Malicious people with malicious intent may now try to giveaway a software with a real virus/malware. Since all giveaways are falsely detected as malware now, it will be much harder to detect a real virus/malware if one is actually included in the software being given away.

  • Legal issues

Being a legitimate company (more or less), GOTD is viable for lawsuits is people think they are purposefully, or even unintentionally, trying to spread around malware.

All in all I don’t think the money GOTD will earn by teaming up with Software Informer is really worth it. The cons out weigh the pros on in one. My suggestion to GOTD is to either figure out somehow to fix this false positive readings or to ditch Software Informer. Also, to keep its good standing in the community, GOTD should make the Software Informer client install an opt in instead of an opt out (in other words you have to choose to install it rather than choose to not install it). If you disagree with my feel free to post below.

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15 comments

  1. Dave

    @anonymous: “TL;DR” – I’m 34 & I’ve been online for 21 years… Yet, I had to look “TL;DR ” up!  I’m not keeping up with the acronyms these days, I guess.

    But, I DID LEARN ALL CAPS POSTS MAKE IT LOOK LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING RIGHT AWAY!1!1!1!

    The “FAG” comment was particularly insulting.  Windows = FAG?  Homophobic, lame and stupid.

    What OS do you use??

    I am a “FAG” and I’m mostly a Linux user.  Also, many “FAGS” I know seem to be all about spending themselves into debt to buy the latest and most fab Apple products!  Your analogy is f*cked up.
    Also, even though I’m not a big fan of Windows, it dominates in the business world and the gaming world – face it!  If you thought this article was too long, why did you scroll all the way to the bottom and submit a comment even??

    Personally I think this is one of the most comprehensive, well-written sites for freeware reviews!  For Windows, or any other OS.

  2. jelson

    I stopped going to GOTD when I first encountered “Software Informer” in one of the setup files. I won’t be going back.

    Not for the false positive, but simply because it’s reported purpose was to “phone home” and let me know about future releases and updates.

    I don’t like that at all! No more GOTD for me.

    It’s bad enough that the programs can’t be re-installed. (I reinstall my system from time-to-time.)

    “Software Informer” isn’t really malware, it’s In_Bad_Taste-ware!

  3. dave88

    I do not believe this is a false positive. It may not be a virus, but it certainly qualifies as spyware/riskware. It scans what programs are installed on your system and relays this information back to base? To look for updates for you? Who knows what other info it may collect? User reports of it installing even when they attempted to opt out? No thanks, no more gaotd for me, until this is removed.

    Another reason you might add to your list is. Some of the more desirable gaotd vendors, Paragon, etc. might think twice about partnering with gaotd due to this inclusion.

  4. watcher13

    Ashraf, I don’t know if you’ve seen but GOTD has just made a new blog post. They’re saying the problem was caused by changes they made to the wrapper. They’ve scrapped the changes and are going back to the drawing board. That would explain Victor’s results.

    Still, your points are right on. Opt out’s were designed to sneak things onto your computer. For purposes of it’s image, GOTD should at least use an opt in. And anything that will constantly trip virus scanners will erode confidence in GOTD. Hopefully, that won’t be Sofware Informer, but the jury’s still out.

  5. gmon

    I downloaded today’s GOTD and after running the setup file, Avira popped up a warning and wouldn’t let me proceed. I clicked to let it quarantine instead of deny access, and the pc locked up – long story short, I lost work as I had to reboot.

    I posted about the trouble I had in today’s GOTD and the moderators chose to remove my post, so this either means I have to jump thru hoops to modify my AV settings, since I can’t add an exception that I can’t access, or I change my AV program altogether, or I just stop using GOTD.

  6. Alane

    I am removing GOTD from my bookmarks.

    I will no longer use GOTD to try free software, nor will I recommend it to others.

    I am notifyng my friends that they should not use it anymore..

    I simply am not qualified to undo problems potentially caused by the insertion of a tool bar I do NOT want.

    I can/will no longer trust that GOTD programs are virus free.

    I feel this is a very foolish move on GOTD’s part.

    The vast ripple effect of my “word of mouth” change of heart will certainly lessen current and future users of GOTD.

  7. CompNetTeach

    Hey Ashraf:

    I’m not a frequent commenter at GOTD, but when I do, I tend to lean towards productive, critical, constructive criticism with some detail.

    I am pretty much giving up on recommending the site, for two reasons:
    1) The majority of my comments have been moderated out the last while. (I posted a warning on some poorly written system cleaner listing specific \Windows\i386 files that were being deleted and it got moderated out!) I find it amazing that they would kill constructive comments while letting inflammatory and ignorant comments go through. I thought that the role of a moderator is to tone down rhetoric, prevent flaming & guide discussion; not censor legitimate concerns. Which other comments from other insightful people are being removed? Go figure…
    2) If this is an indication of the increased machinations that they are leaning towards, then I don’t want to have an increasing workload helping out friends fix their problems, which obviously would increase. I’ve had a rash of dealing with hung systems & AV software issues with this change.

    This is what I attempted to post in regards to the Software Informer Issue, in the blog notice (most appropriate location) and on one of the daily giveaways:

    The heuristic malware detection from Avira is caused by the Software Informer toolbar bundled with the Giveaway Activation wrapper. The Software Informer inspects the version numbers of the installed software, dials out to the Internet, compares the information with its database and generates a report. Such activities by unknown software is indeed suspicious. Thus, Avira is working properly, and this is a legitimate false positive situation.

    Avira, though a good (speed & detection) and recommended anti-virus package (free & paid) does have one problem: When the detection pop-up occurs, you are given the option of “Ignore”, however, this action is not perpetual – you end up with an (almost) endless stream of pop-ups to which you must select “Ignore.” This can create a situation whereby your system hangs when you miss a single Avira pop-up as you proceed with GOTD’s SETUP.EXE – you can only power down. Thus you must temporarily disable Avira when installing a giveaway – definitely not an ideal situation.

    Perhaps Giveaway of the Day should directly submit their wrapper to Avira so that an exclusion rule may be created…

    Perhaps Giveaway of the Day should package the toolbar as a separate installer file in the ZIP. The revised wrapper can easily launch the independent toolbar installer, without completely ruining your reputation by indicating that every single application is infected – it’s more obvious that the toolbar only is suspect, and it should be due to its functionality.

    The separate toolbar installer file option is a good idea from another perspective: I’ve noticed that when dealing with a large SETUP.EXE (e.g. the recent Paragon applications), older & more limited systems can run into some strange problems (e.g. sluggish response, massive page file swaps, drive space / quota issues, timeouts, orphaned file handles) due to the long time it takes to unwrap these large files. This results in an “Unable to Connect to GiveawayOfTheDay.com” error, and you cannot install the giveaway, though you should be able to get it to work with repeated attempts at running SETUP.EXE. By adding more bulk to SETUP.EXE, you are increasing the difficulties people face, especially on slower connections.

    This is not limited to Avira alone. It did trigger NOD32 on one machine while alt-Tabbing, but not otherwise. AVAST didn’t like it either.

  8. acomputerdude

    GAOTD just lost me and my recommendations to their site. What they are doing is foolish and an insult. If not paying very close attention the “Informer” (read: spyware) will be installed. I can see that happening to many novice users.

    It was somewhat good while it lasted. See ya GAOTD!

  9. WobblyWombat

    I agree whole heartedly with the problems outlined by Ashraf (and Mobius) above, but as an Avira user I persisted with the nightmarish process of installing Software Informer, despite endless warnings. I have another concern too…

    When I ran the Informer it flagged many programs that I dl’ed from gaotd as having updates available. But surely if I update them, they will revert to trial versions? I notice that often the version that is given away is not the most current full version, and fear it will be just a matter of time before people are losing yesterdays giveaway in the process of getting todays. This will annoy the heck out of people and again lead to bad feeling toward the site.

    GAOTD should not be bundling software that will detract from the purpose of the site!

    Hope this makes some sense, need a sleep ;-)

  10. Mobius

    I couldn’t agree with you more. However, according to WOT, Software Informer itself is not a purveyor of malware. The problem lies in the use of a toolbar to do whatever it is their toolbar is trying to do. Personally I do not find much use to any toolbars, but in and of themselves, toolbars are not bad. They are, however, another vector which could be tapped by miscreants in spreading malware.

    Part of the problem is that anti-virus companies are reporting the false positives, partly because it gives their anti-malware software an aura of omniscience. And, if company A’s anti-malware software says something is bad (like a toolbar), and company B’s anti-malware software does not, then the public is likely going to begin to think that the company B’s software is not as good as company A. Now, company B, because of the perception (illusion) of not being as good must begin reporting that all toolbars are bad, in order to be appealing to the malware-wary public.

    That is where GAOTD is going to be hurt, because they are now going to be perceived, albeit, unfairly, that they are passing malware. This is an ill informed attempt by GAOTD to change for the better. It will backfire on them, as you have already noted.

    Ultimately it will hurt not only them, but us, too, as the regular users of GAOTD, because GAOTD, in trying to be progressive, are shooting themselves, and us, in the foot.

    Whatever additional income they receive from Software Informer is ultimately going to be temporary. I am sure the income is going to be based on actual downloads. Those downloads will become fewer as new people are scared away, and current regulars get tired of the false positives.