Harvard Law joins in site to battle ‘badware’

Harvard University’s Berkman Center and the Oxford Internet Institute today launched what they call a “neighborhood watch” initiative against spyware and other malicious software programs. StopBadware.org will spotlight companies that trick Internet users to download malicious spyware, adware and malware programs.

The multiyear initiative is being supported by Google, Lenovo and Sun Microsystems. Consumer Reports WebWatch, a grant-funded project of Consumers Union, is serving a pro-bono role as special consumer adviser.

Organizers hope this initiative will serve as a deterrent by publishing names and reports of companies spreading badware and as an educational tool for software developers by providing principles they can follow to provide a positive user experience.

Through the Web site, visitors will be able to check whether programs they want to download are infected with badware and alert others to programs they have encountered that include malicious software such as spyware, incessant pop-up ads or other obtrusive programs. The site will include the initiative’s own brief reports on downloads it has identified as badware, as well as more detailed academic studies on the problem of badware. Organizers encourage visitors to submit their own badware horror stories for publication on the site.