Verizon's Idea Of Security: We Block Spyware… Unless It's From Our Partners

from the security-for-the-weak dept

Rich Kulawiec writes in after digging a bit deeper into a well publicized study done for Verizon, claiming that most Americans have a false sense of security on their computers. Digging a little deeper, you realize that the “study” is really a marketing ploy for a new security service Verizon is offering with RadialPoint (oddly, this seems to come just two months after Verizon announced a different security service). As for this new offering, there’s a free scan and then a subscription service. Of course, in order to run the security scan on your computer you need to: (1) be running windows (2) disable your pop-up blocker and (3) run IE. As Kulawiec notes, “none of which are good ideas for anyone who actually cares about security.” Kulawiec then went to check out the terms of service for the subscription offering and found some questionable claims:

a. You acknowledge, agree and consent to the following: (i)
the Radialpoint Software, in its default configuration, does
not block ads from third parties or Verizon or its affiliates
and business partners, and may not identify as spyware certain
websites and applications from Verizon and its affiliates or
business partners,


(ii) Radialpoint Inc. and/or Verizon and
its affiliates have the right and do access and modify the
Software as well as the software (including registry settings
on your computer) and/or your hardware for various purposes
in connection with the Service (e.g. for the installation and
implementation of the Software and updates to it) as well as
to download, install and/or gather, obtain, collect and then
use, in relation to the delivery and operation of Services,
various information and data, including information necessary
to identify you and your computer to ensure that Services are
received as well as information necessary for the reporting of
these services , and (iii) use of such information and data by
Verizon will be in accordance with Verizon’s privacy policy.

That certainly sounds like Verizon won’t block spyware from ad partners and will also spy on you and report the data back to Verizon. Yikes. No wonder people’s computers aren’t as secure as they think. If they’re installing Verizon’s anti-spyware offering, the company’s own terms of service make it clear that you’re basically opening up your computer to them. As for not blocking partner company’s spyware, that’s the same thing that Yahoo got into trouble over years ago — but apparently Verizon hopes people have forgotten.

Filed Under:
Companies: radialpoint, verizon

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Comments on “Verizon's Idea Of Security: We Block Spyware… Unless It's From Our Partners”

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Woadan says:


I am often ashamed to admit that I used to work for Verizon. I started out at Bell, and while I was not always proud of what we did, I was never ashamed. I can’t say the same thing after we, erm, they became Verizon.

Among the worst things that Verizon has convinced themselves of is that they are a content provider. If they are, they do not provide very good products, and their deployment of these services is pretty uneven. (Anybody ever use the Bell Atlantic branded versin of No? Crickets?)

It isn’t so much that they are a content provider because they usually just resell some other companies services/content. (Often at very little profit for Verizon I suspect.)

The reason this sort of thinking is so prevelant at Verizon (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it also exists at the “new” AT&T and at Qwest) is because they fear becoming just a fat, dumb pipe.

Raise your hand if you want anything more than the pipe from Verizon.

Raise your hand if you use the email they provide to you.

(Looking for any hands to be raised.)

Bueller. Bueller? Ferris Bueller?

Uh-huh, just what I thought.

To the ILECs, being a fat, dumb pipe is one step short of extinction. So they’ll fight tooth and nail to not be.


Old_Paranoid says:

Securing Windows

Securing Windows is not an oxymoron, but I would be very surprised if installing such software would do it. Why should anyone rely upon Verizon for this functionality? Macafee, Symantec, and even Microsoft have some claim in this space.

Despite the public perception, it is quite possible to configure modern Windows deployments to be secure and eminently useable for productive activities. Such deployments do not exhibit all the bells and whistles that consumers and reviewers love.

Wally Tamarama says:

Why am I not surprised?

I guess I’m a suspicious enough old bustard to know better than to send money to Nigeria to get my share of $100 million, to give money to telephone solicitors who call on behalf of some worthy-sounding cause like the Injured Left-Handed Nut-Tightener’s Fund, or to install software provided by my ISP. I also extend that to “free XYZ-players”, “game launchers” “toolbars” and a host of other crap.

If you must use Windows (and the only reason I do is because I have to), you’re wise to remember that just about everybody out there wants to peer through your Window at you, and they’ll even stoop to using your fear of malware to induce you to install malware.

Oh, and your ISP is your enemy.

Anonymous Coward says:

How come those wonderful Lawyers don’t go after this one – a “security” product who’s main function is to ensure that there is no security deployed in relation to Verizon and friends (there might be some security against non-Verizon stuff but that’s unclear).
The TOS even seems to imply that if you do deploy some genuine security -firewall etc- they can reconfigure your computer to make it ineffective.

Richard W. Davis (user link) says:

The current state of the internet and Microsoft...

If I could have my wish…Bill Gates would take one of his billions, and form a new company – “The Gates” or “MicroGate” or whatever, and go up against Microsoft as a competitor. He could hire the best away from them, and in a year, leave them in the dust. He was not born to be a philanthropist. He was born to to battle in the business world, and to create the best software on the planet. Wake up Bill. You don’t need help, or advise. You need dedicated employees who have a share in the profits as incentive. Worked out pretty well, for a while last time, right?

Alfred E. Neuman says:

What the Future Holds

I’m sure that at some point, one or more self serving organizations will attempt to make this sort of crapware mandatory. It will be no doubt promoted under the guise of “save the childeren”. This, if enacted, would kill one of the most beneficial instruments ever conceived by humans. It is sad that some just do not understand this.

jd bumm says:

ISP is your enemy

Ok someone stated that ” your ISP is your enemy”
how true this is.. example
our provincial telco (crown corporation ie: supposedly owened by the public and operated by the provincial government)has no hi-speed for you if you live more than 3 miles from the city/town. they do however have dial-up is the kicker…basic dial-up $39.95 a month for 120 hrs. but if you buy there long distsnce bundle (add $49.95 to the original $39.95) you can get a whopping 180 hrs a month. ($1.85 per min for anything over the 180 or 120 hrs. w0w what a deal .. don’t forget this is all on top of the basic $30 line fee.

contrast this to the ISP i found (
$6.95 a month UNLIMITED access (as well with multilnking of up to 10 modems included.. i use 2 56k modems and get almost dsl speeds )

now I know these guys didn’t spend the last 80 odd years getting goverment subsidies and grants like all the big telcos or cable operators, yet how are they able to offer this kind of service.

The telcos and cable guys all cry we need it to pay for all the improvements etc. ok what have they been doing for the last 10 yrs with all the cash the extorted from the customers?.. never mind the last 40-50 yrs?

anyways boycott the big telcos or keep sending complaints to your gov rep telling them just how we feel about this big ripp-off.


Nunya says:

ummm not me

I would never install anything from them or my isp. They kept telling me one time to install there disk and it would send them the mac addy of my modem, I was like nope. Then I busted out that I have linux and they told me its an unsupported os, I was like you mean your techs are to stupid to know it or is it you saving paper to add the support in the books you get them to read. If you install anything from these affils without reading the rot then you desearve what you get

Big Brother says:

Verizon Rocks!!

I have verizon an there service is excellent!! There is a simple solution, DON”T USE THERE SECURITY, an READ your license agreements before you click “YES” if you’re computer illiterate. Use a real security suite an actually set up the features in your security suite!

Verizon shame on you for taking advantage of your customers that don’t know any better. C.R.E.A.M. get the money, dolla dolla bill ya’ll!! lol

Rich Kulawiec says:

Same observation made elsewhere

Apparently slashdot user “Sticky Widget” has taken the same
path, and makes similar comments there. He/she also points
out something that I missed: the installation page for the software
says “Administrator rights are required to install this software”.
He/she goes on to point out that this in itself represents a
possible vector for the entry of additional malware.

Keni Marie Haswell says:

Let's Start an Anti-Spyware War!

As a person who’s been playing around with computers for over 30-years, and who has seen a lot, I really think it’s time that people online got together and banned spyware all together. It seems that it doesn’t matter what program you install, it has a way of sending information you don’t know about to it’s owners. LexMark printer software comes to mind as do many others. Google’s getting so bad, it reminds me of Yahoo, and I don’t even sign on to Yahoo anymore and haven’t in years. I think the key to stopping it would be for the owners of the spyware, who often sell the information they gather, to pay the computer owner $100 a week to track one’s computer. After all, we need to make a living as well as the spyware designers. My second gripe is to ban all software designers from loading their program into the system tray without user consent. Third, require software owners to post their prices prior to gathering personal information. Often to get a price, you have to start a trial download of the software, and they want your personal information first. Price should be clear before you start the download or give personal information. RegCure wanted full name, email address, state before it would open it’s trial download page with the price it wants to register the software after it’s installed and the trial expires.

In short, I’m tired of all the scamming online.

So I thought I’d start a war…

Have a nice day.


P.S. first battle: toolbars. lol

Anhel says:

In fact we don’t even know what ‘useful’ programs on our PC have some module built-in that sends information about us to its vendor. It might be Windows itself and I wouldn’t be surprised.

As to spyware protection, I feel myself comfortable because I use PrivacyKeyboard that ensures protection of my sensitive information from the worst type of spyware – keyloggers.

Austin Hill (user link) says:

The difference between Spyware and Managed Securit

[Disclosure: I’m a co-founder of the company Radialpoint that provides the security solution to Verizon]

Hi Mike, unfortunately the article I think is a bit misleading. This is a managed security service. As part of managed security services the company does provides updates, scans and data is exchanged between the SERVICE SUBSCRIBER, VERIZON and the provider of the service RADIALPOINT.

This isn’t a privacy issue. Users who opt-in to the convience of having managed security services for their broadband connections are agreeing to let Verizon and Radialpoint help keep their computers safe.

Other security vendors who offer consumer managed security services have similar TOS agreements since the technical functions of a managed security offering require that the provider of the service be able to manage the security service.

Radialpoint provides managed security services through out partners (Some of the largest ISPs in the World) to millions of consumers who have opted for a low cost, managed security solution to keep their computers safe.

Many of these users do run IE, out of date security packages or find competing retail solutions from McAfee or Symantec cumbersome and they opt for a simple managed solution from their ISP.

Radialpoint was one of the founding members of the Anti-Spyware coalition and as a founder of the company I personally testified at the FTC helping to create the framework for assessing spyware and developing industry best practices in the areas of informed consent, limited data disclosure, no 3rd party ads and other privacy protections.

Verizon is offering their users a valuable service, which despite the work of Microsoft and other vendors is much needed as many consumers are plagued with REAL spyware that affects the performance of their broadband connections.

This results in higher support costs, network abuse and affects all the users of the Verizon service. They should be commended for offering consumers a solution and turning a critical business issue for ISPs (Support costs of diagnosing broadband subscribers security problems) into a business opportunity to provide security scanners and managed security services.

PS – The exclusion of Verizon provided software from its service partners adheres to a whitelist functionality that is similar to all ISP provided security tools. ISPs often include customer service diagnostic & management tools that when they offer security services they specifically exclude from blocking at the security level. If they offer security services that block other services that consumers subscribe too they would be creating customer service problems.

Spyware and the invasion of users privacy is something that Radialpoint has fought since it’s inception in 1997 and I think it important to note the differences between managed security and spyware that hijacks users PCs, is installed without consent and tracks users behaviors while displaying ads or resetting users preferences.

One is clearly a valuable service, and the other is clearly unaccepted behavior.

I think your readers would benefit from a clearer description of what is being provided by this service.

Hoby says:

radialpoint and verizon - guilty as charged

Austin Hill, the problem with your many lines of filler text is that you never addressed the key issue.. not even to deny it.

If you were trying to make the case that Radialpoint doesn’t allow what we’re accusing it of – you’ve failed.. and wasted whatever time any of us have spent reading your paragraphs of pointless BS and pompous, well, buffoonery.

So if we’re a Verizon customer, our computer is open to any manner of corporate sponsored and sanctioned malware. That’s not okay.

Guru says:

From RadialPoint's website ...

This is only what they say in public. God knows what other arrangements they make with their clients “off the air”.

“The VAS Desktop Container tracks and logs all subscriber clicks, and sends these events back to the VMP™ to store in a data warehouse. VAS Intelligence allows ISPs to query, report, and analyze this data to gain new levels of insight into how subscribers buy and use their VAS.”

“Radialpoint takes a direct-to-desktop approach which allows rich messages to be targeted to the subscriber’s PCs.”

“With the aid of detailed VAS Intelligence, ISPs can send timely, relevant, and meaningful messages to their subscribers based on their usage, behavior, and preferences. Granular and detailed targeting rules can be applied to target specific subscriber segments. For example, these targeting rules can be based on subscriber ID, profile, current subscription status, operating system, software environment, and many other custom targeting rules. Additionally, these desktop messages can be rich text, audio or video to provide the right media for the type of campaign.”

Simply put, they plant spyware for the ISP to target adware more efficiently.

ruth onell says:

radial point & att

last year, att did some upgrading…apparently their security blocked me from my bank, a secure site; i could get no help from att tech other than go to firefox and all would be okay. i did not think that i had to change my browser to satisfy my security system. i contacted my bank’s tech resources and was told that the security system i was using was blocking me; i pursued and pursued my bellsouth (att) security techs and insisted that they correct the situation, that i did not want to change my browser. i turned my computer over to the tech…and he inserted words into my allowed sites and it allowed me to continue as i had been. Now, att did some improvements again; i was blocked out of my online broker, a secure site…in the middle of a merger situation…i was stuck…i had to go to firefox to get passage to my broker. i tried to get rid of firefox afterwards…. my whole computer is screwed up again… it took me a week to bring down my “steamer” that i needed with my stocks. i still cannot use my printer. i increased my email to 5000 entries to take care of all the ads. i, for the first time, recived notice of a $1300.00 unauthorized charge…the authorities notified me by phone and followed it up with a letter…i do not know if it is related but i feel terribly controlled and vulnerable.
i was searching for answers and a security system that will not control me and my transactions when i came across your website.
thank you, Ruth

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