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180solutions upgrades security

Adware maker launches new software product software product that detects fraud more effectively than earlier offerings.

Fewer people will unwittingly download advertising software from adware maker 180solutions, the company said Tuesday as it launched a new software product that detects fraud more effectively than earlier offerings.

For years, critics have accused Bellevue, Wash.-based 180solutions, which pays people to distribute ad-supported software that displays advertisements, of making it easy for hackers to download the software without a computer user's knowledge. While the company has argued that the fault rested with the lawbreakers and not the software, it has continued to bolster security in recent months.

"Today's announcement is the culmination of many months of hard work focused on building technology that is more resistant to unauthorized, nonconsensual installations of our software," Keith Smith, CEO and co-founder of 180solutions, said in a statement.

In addition to launching the new Seekmo Search Assistant, which will notify 180solutions of fraudulent downloads, the company announced that it will do away with 180search Assistant, one of its more controversial products.

Anti-spyware firm Zone Labs has identified 180search Assistant and Zango applications, which deliver pop-up ads to users as they perform Web searches, as a "potential threat to the user's security and/or privacy."

Last month, 180solutions filed suit in an attempt to force Zone Labs to change the "high risk" designation it placed on 180solution's software. 180solutions has also asked for unspecified monetary damages.

Internet message boards are filled with complaints about software from 180solutions from people who say they were unable to remove the company's software and that it was unlawfully loaded into their computers. What has fueled the lawlessness is 180solution's willingness to pay people to distribute their software products, a policy that has led to many well-publicized abuses, according to anti-spyware advocates.

The new software from 180solutions tracks and identifies compromised distribution channels through several different sources, including customer feedback. If the data reveals a potential fraud, then the company will notify customers who may be affected and will allow them to uninstall the software with "one-click removal," the company said in statement.

The system allows 180solutions to evaluate the legitimacy of installations before making payments to the people it pays to distribute its software.

"This takes away the financial incentive of fraudulent downloads," said Sean Sundwall, a spokesman for 180solutions.