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< BackWednesday, October 28, 2015

Avira takes Freemium.com to court to stop its misleading adware distribution

Avira has filed a lawsuit against Freemium.com for confusing users into installing unwanted programs that can compromise users’ privacy or weaken their computers’ security.

Avira has filed a lawsuit against Freemium.com for confusing users into installing unwanted programs that can compromise users’ privacy or weaken their computers’ security. Avira has been spearheading the detection of this kind of software as "Potentially Unwanted Applications" (PUA) and is now the first security vendor to take a software publisher to court over this unfair business practice. The case will be heard at the Hamburg regional court.

“It is time to take the fight against this next-generation adware directly to the source,” said Travis Witteveen, CEO of Avira GmbH. “Freemium.com is engaged in unfair competition that violates consumers’ legal right to privacy and uses invalid contracts.”

The core issue is Freemium.com’s software installation tool or “wrapper”, which itself is a PUA. It uses social engineering tricks to make the user install other potentially unwanted applications in addition to the initial desired software - and the user is not even aware of this.

“It’s like putting ten layers of wrapping paper on a single present– there’s room for a lot of unpleasant crapware to be hidden,” explained Mr. Witteveen. “We’ve documented where a user wanting to download a single app could end up with four additional programs, two browser extensions, and a desktop link to a gaming site.”

The wrapper is also used on other gaming and download sites hosted by ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, an investor in Freemium.com, as well as Axel Springer’s Computerbild.de download portal.

Devil in the details

One issue with Freemium.com is that the end-user agreements (EULA) governing customers’ relationship with these apps range from invalid to nonsensical. “One extreme example was a German corporation using English language contracts filed under Egyptian laws for German consumers,” noted Claus Kaufmann, General Counsel at Avira. The data use policies give apps virtually unlimited rights to sell and share information about consumers, record data use, and track locations.

Avira’s base in Germany puts the company in a strong geographic position. “Germany is a global leader when it comes to protecting the privacy of individuals – and their data,” Mr. Kaufmann explained. “We will use our location here in Germany as a bully pulpit to strengthen consumer’s rights to privacy.”

A history of consumer protection

Going on the offensive against online scams has been part of Avira’s history for nearly 30 years. “Back in the dark ages before broadband, Avira went aggressively against dial-up sites and subscription traps,” said Mr. Witteveen. “We see this lawsuit against Freemium.com as another step in our history of defending all consumers.” Freemium.com previously took Avira to court – and lost – over Avira warning users that many of the site’s apps were PUA.

Unwanted apps are a problem

Unwanted apps are a real problem for consumers. “In the last seven months, we’ve sent our customers more than 225 million PUA warnings. More than 63 million of those warnings were for an installation tool similar to that used by Freemium.com which can include a number of unwanted apps,” stated Alexander Vukcevic, head of the Avira Virus Labs. Avira has made several recent steps against this type of software distribution:

  1. Published PUA guidelines for software developers.
  2. Added a PUA Shield to the Avira Browser Safety plugin.
  3. Launched safeapps.avira.com, a portal where users can download clean free apps without worrying.
  4. “This lawsuit is just the latest step,” stated Mr. Witteveen. “We will continue to work at many levels to stop the flood of nuisance applications.”


Important: Your current Windows version is outdated and no longer supported.
For your security, we recommend switching to Windows 10 before downloading Avira software.
Update your Windows version here.
Wichtig: Ihre Windows-Version ist veraltet und wird nicht mehr unterstützt.
Zu Ihrer Sicherheit empfehlen wir Ihnen den Wechsel zu Windows 10 vor dem Download unserer Software.
Hier können Sie Ihr Windows aktualisieren.
Important: Votre version actuelle de Windows est obsolète et n’est plus prise en charge.
Pour votre sécurité, nous vous conseillons de passer à Windows 10 avant de télécharger le logiciel Avira.
Mettez à jour votre version de Windows ici.
Importante: Tu versión actual de Windows está desactualizada y ya no es compatible.
Por tu seguridad, te recomendamos que instales Windows 10 antes de descargar la solución de Avira.
Actualiza aquí tu versión de Windows.
Importante: La tua attuale versione di Windows è obsoleta e non è più supportata.
Per la tua sicurezza, ti consigliamo di passare a Windows 10 prima di scaricare i software Avira.
Aggiorna la tua versione di Windows qui.
Importante: Sua versão atual do Windows está desatualizada e não tem mais suporte.
Para sua segurança, recomendamos que troque para o Windows 10 antes de baixar o software da Avira.
Atualize sua versão do Windows aqui.
Важно: ваша версия Windows устарела и больше не поддерживается.
Из соображений безопасности перед загрузкой ПО Avira мы рекомендуем перейти на Windows 10.
Обновить Windows вы можете здесь.
Belangrijk: Uw huidige versie van Windows is verouderd en wordt niet meer ondersteund.
Voor uw veiligheid adviseren wij u om over te stappen op Windows 10 voordat u de Avira-software downloadt.
Update uw Windows-versie hier.
Önemli: Kullanmakta olduğunuz Windows sürümü eski ve artık desteklenmiyor.
Güvenliğiniz için Avira yazılımını indirmeden önce Windows 10 sürümüne yükseltmenizi öneririz.
Windows sürümünü buradan güncelleyin.
重要 : 現在お使いの Windows バージョンは古いため、サポートされなくなりました。
安全のため、Avira ソフトウェアをダウンロードする前に Windows 10 に切り替えることをお勧めします。
こちらより Windows バージョンをアップデートしてください
重要信息 : 您当前的 Windows 版本已过时,并且不再受支持。
为了安全起见,我们建议您在下载 Avira 软件之前切换到 Windows 10。
在此升级您的 Windows 版本
重要資訊 : 您當前的 Windows 版本已過時,並且不再受支援。
為了安全起見,我們建議您在下載 Avira 軟體之前切換到 Windows 10。
在此升級您的 Windows 版本