Many users of popular AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) client may have fallen prey to a recent round of tricks to install adware on their computers.
The software, called Buddylinks, is not a virus, but behaves much in the same way that other Trojan viruses have in the past. The difference lies in the terms of service, which contains provisions that allow the software to be installed legally.
Instant messenger users receive a message asking them to check out the link, http://www.wgutv.com/osama_capture.php?dII5, claiming that “We’ve captured Osama bin Laden.” The domain name was registered to mimic that of a television station.
Upon loading the page, a security dialog appears asking for permission to load software onto the host machine in order to play the game. If allowed, a short game loads where a character bearing resemblance to Saddam Hussein collects nuclear devices and flags of various countries.
The software’s creator, PSD Tools, would not talk to Associated Press reporters. A support technician did say that the program was launched this Tuesday.
The company’s web side touts the new adware as a public service, saying “PSD’s latest application, BuddyNews.com allows the end user to readily communicate the latest product, idea, or Web trend to his social network over various instant-messaging, newsgroups, and social network technologies.”
Andrew Weinstein, a spokesman for AIM creator America Online, said “In addition to being a particularly slimy form of adware, it is also a violation of the AIM terms of service.”
The terms of service says that users “may not use AIM Products including communication tools such as e-mail, instant messaging and chat services to send unsolicited bulk communications, including through e-mail or instant messages.”
Weinstein went on to say that AOL would be considering legal actions over the next few days to determine what legal options are available to prevent the company from continuing the distribution of the software.
“If you have already clicked on the link and downloaded that software, you can remove the adware program from your machine by clicking on Start > Control Panels > Add/Remove Programs and then removing a program called PSD Tools,” the support page advises.
“Additionally, if you have downloaded this program, you may want to alert friends and associates on your Buddy List how they can remove this software”
Aside from adware, UTM students and staff are urged to enable antivirus software on machines connected to the campus network.
UTM students, faculty and staff may download the McAfee Antivirus software free of charge for home or office use. It is available from security.utm.edu.
Adware removaltools such as AdAware from LavaSoft, will detect applications similiar to Buddylinks and remove it from the “infected” computer.
To download a free copy of the AdAware basic edition, visit lavasoft.element5.com.