AOL 9.0 Accused of Being 'Badware'

Dennis Faas's picture

It seems that AOL can't turn around these days without stepping into some sort of controversy. Bad news, more bad news, and customer service tactics reminiscent of the Mafia have plagued the company in recent months.

The latest fiasco: The most recent version of AOL 9.0 is now being tagged as "badware" (malware) by The malware-prevention website is a joint project between Harvard Law School and Oxford University. (Source: posted this notice about the latest incarnation of AOL 9.0:

"In our preliminary findings, we find that AOL 9.0 (free version) is currently badware because it installs additional software without telling the user, it forces the user to take certain actions, it adds various components to Internet Explorer and the taskbar without disclosure, and it may automatically update without the user's consent.

We currently recommend that users do not install the version of AOL software that we tested, unless the user is comfortable with the level of risk we identify or until the application is updated consistent with the recommendations in this report."

The website goes on to list the following issues:

  • Installs additional software without disclosure (Deceptive installation)
  • Forces users to take an action (Interferes with computer use)
  • Adds AOL toolbar in Internet Explorer (Makes changes to other software without disclosure)
  • Adds additional icons to default Internet Explorer toolbar (Makes changes to other software without disclosure)
  • Adds to "Favorites" in Internet Explorer (Modifies other software without disclosure)
  • Adds AOL Deskbar to the user's taskbar (Modifies other software without disclosure)
  • Updates software automatically (Deceptive installation) (Source:

However, in all fairness, "AOL plainly does not belong in the same category as the all-too-prevalent, garden variety badware providers," admits co-director John Palfrey. "But the free version of AOL 9.0 that we tested, in our view, does not live up to the company's rich legacy." (Source:

AOL has apparently responded quickly to the situation and is currently taking steps to resolve it. Palfrey says he's impressed by the company's fast action. (Source:

For the sake of AOL users, hopefully the organization will continue to address its issues in a timely manner.

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