Types of Adware: WeatherBug

There has been much debate about what is actually adware and even more on what is considered to be spyware.  This arouse due to various discoveries by security experts and a growing concern from consumers.  Many programs that appeared to be harmless ad-supported software were found to be much more deceptive.  Aside from displaying pop-up ads on a user's screen, they also secretly collected data, forwarding it over the internet to unknown sources.  Shortly thereafter, other strange behavior was noticed such as changing homepages, redirecting web requests and slowing down system performance.  Adware then began to show characteristics of dangerous threats such as Trojans, downloading other malicious software onto victimized machines. 

Several companies have been proven of deceptive practice, some of have been litigated while others are still fighting to keep their names clean.  One company deeply involved in the adware/spyware controversy is AWS Convergence Technologies Inc. and their popular weather forecasting software, WeatherBug. 

WeatherBug Description

WeatherBug is a computer application that displays data of live weather.  It is available for download from the company's website along with the sites of nearly 85 of its TV broadcasting partners.  Before the critics began to speak out, WeatherBug was frequently bundled and installed with the AOL Instant Messenger utility. 

The WeatherBug Network consist of approximately 8,000 tracking stations located in different regions across the United States.  These tracking stations capture live views of the weather as it changes and also generates live neighborhood level data.  WeatherBug's partners collect data from their tracking stations and use it to present their own forecast.  Not only does it support 8000 of it's own network channels, but an estimated 1000 NWS (National Weather Service) stations.  

WeatherBug first came under fire in 2005.  Microsoft's anti-spyware program, now known as Windows Defender, detected WeatherBug in a test scan and labeled the program as spyware because of it's behavior.  This was adapted by several other security vendors though many chose to refer to it as adware.  Microsoft eventually dropped this classification from WeatherBug but others didn't, even though AWS contested that their adaptation was not that of the common adware definition. 

The Current Perception                  

WeatherBug has cleared it's name in a sense and is stilled used rather frequently.  The program has been able to ditch the spyware title by proving that it does not secretly monitor or transmit user data.  It's adware functionality can also be fully disabled by purchasing a full version of the program.  Unlike most adware, it comes included with an easy to use uninstall function.  The biggest gripe about WeatherBug these days is that it may be installed without consent when bundled with other software and automatically runs when the machine starts up. 

Despite all of the positive steps to distance themselves from the adware business, WeatherBug's creators haven't not been forgiven by everyone.  Many anti-spyware vendors develop their software to detect and remove it.  More often than not, WeatherBug remains in their database as potentially harmful adware that should be immediately removed from your computer.   

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