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8/5/2010
06:03 PM
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Startup To Launch Cloud-Based 'Anti-Crapware' Service

Bloatware can introduce vulnerabilities to PCs, ForwardK says

Crapware, bloatware, or just unwanted software: It's those apps that either get packaged with a new PC or are downloaded and forgotten by users and can ultimately pose silent vulnerability risks. Startup ForwardK, currently operating in stealth mode, this fall will roll out a cloud-based service to detect and remove these apps.

Ryan Sherstobitoff, CEO at ForwardK, says his company is putting the final touches on an anti-bloatware removal suite for Windows that detects problem apps that are often missed or overlooked by antivirus or PC-tuning applications. The company will launch its ForwardK Security Cloud offering in September, followed by a full-blown commercial rollout in November, he says.

Sherstobitoff says bloatware or crapware apps are often poorly written and introduce vulnerabilities into the system, typically via buffer overflows, for instance. "They have memory leaks that introduce vulnerabilities because they don't maintain a patching cycle," he says. "This is a big pain point when you buy computers [loaded] with this unwanted software. There are thousands of apps you can get from download.com, and users have no idea of the risk of these apps and the potential problems that they can introduce."

Unlike PC-tuning software, which focuses more on registry or fragmentation problems on the system, he says the cloud-based service will detect and remove unwanted or unnecessary apps that can present security holes.

The client application is the analyzer, which runs an algorithm that determines if a program is crapware, he says. "The cloud side of things is part of the overall classification process, and the client application makes a query to the cloud to see if the process is known or unknown. If it's known to the cloud, it then processes the application as crapware," Sherstobitoff says.

The cloud side works like an online community with a knowledge base on the various forms of unwanted software.

Existing tools that scan for these programs, such as PC Decrapifier, are basically client-based tools, he says. "A pain point for consumers and businesses is to find programs that AV cannot detect but that they want to remove, and [when] they are not sure what to remove," he says.

But Joshua Corman, research director for the enterprise security practice at The 451 Group, questions adding yet another layer of security offerings. "The structure already exists for antivirus, whitelisting, malware collection, spyware, and Web classification," Corman says. "Why reinvent the wheel" when these offerings are already in place, he says.

"If there's a market demand here, the barrier to entry should be lower for the AV guys to respond for their existing infrastructure," he says.

Corman is skeptical that users actually need an anti-bloatware tool. "Is this is a one-time benefit and is the capability justified?" he says.

ForwardK's Sherstobitoff maintains that the cloud-based offering is not just for a one-shot scanning and removal operation. "If you buy a PC and download other apps [from the Web] and install them, you have no idea if the software is good or bad. They can be causing a number of other problems," he says. "The [service] would be a daily scan like an AV scan."

It also will come with AV-like pricing, he says, although the company is still finalizing the details on the subscription fee.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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