CNET Downloads Now Come with a Bonus: Unwanted Programs and Spyware

CNET Downloads, formerly a trusted source of downloads, now comes with an unhealthy dose of unwanted programs and add-ons installed on your PC without your consent, changed default search settings, and spyware. It’s now unsafe to download anything from CNET.

I spent about half an hour installing and then cleaning up (uninstalling and removing spyware) from my PC after downloading a useful program that I’ve used for a long time–to do screen captures. It’s really a good program that’s easy to use (Camstudio). But after installing, I became disgusted with CNET.

CNET Downloads with Spyware

I don’t know about you, but I am officially DONE with CNET and their “CNET Downloads” area or “feature”. It used to be that you could trust the downloads from CNET. But that’s now history. Stay away from CNET. Downloading something from there will add all sorts of spyware and unwanted programs and toolbars and even change settings on your PC without your knowledge.

I am absolutely disgusted with CNET right now.

You would think that by downloading a program from CNET that your download wouldn’t install all sorts of spyware, malware, and junk programs that you don’t want on your PC.

Rather than downloading a program directly from the software developer’s site, I (mistakenly) thought that it might be ‘safer’ to download from CNET. Boy was I wrong! Not only did I get the program I wanted (a screen capture /video screen capture program) but I also got:

– my default search settings changed
– an add-on to Microsoft PowerPoint installed called “visualbee” that I didn’t want
– a toolbar added and installed on Firefox that I didn’t ask for
– an online coupon program called “Coupon Companion” that I didn’t ask for.
– some other programs installed and I cannot figure out what they do. One even had only an “uninstall” feature that the Microsoft Window “add/remove programs” feature didn’t know what to do with.

Goodbye CNET, I can no longer trust you anymore. You’ve officially “sold out” to the spammers and to the spyware creators, and will never again gain my trust. And you did this just for a few bucks.

It’s a shame that CNET had to ruin our relationship this way.

Update
It seems as though I’m not the only one who has caught CNET Downloads inserting spyware and unwanted programs into their downloads. Take a look here at what insecure.org has to say:

Download.com Caught Adding Malware to Nmap & Other Software

It is bad enough when software authors include toolbars and other unwanted apps bundled with their software. But having Download.com insert such things into 3rd party installers is even more insidious. When users find their systems hosed (searches redirected, home pages changed, new hard-to-uninstall toolbars taking up space in their browser) after installing software, they are likely to blame the software authors. But in this case it is entirely Download.com’s fault for infecting the installers! So while Download.com takes the payment for exploiting their user’s trust and infecting the machines, it is the software authors who wrongly take the blame! Of course it is users who pay the ultimate price of having their systems infected just to make a few bucks for CNET.

Comments

  1. Rose says

    I agree. I just got a load of the visual bee, too. Finally rid of it by removing programs (Visual Bee and Visual power point and the coupon companion and Microsoft bing..just for good measure) then taking Firefox back to a pristine slate as far as extensions were concerned by hitting troubleshooting in the help section, and then the “Reset Firefox to its default state If you’re having major problems which you can’t resolve, start fresh with only your essential information” button.The son of a bitch was in the Firefox extensions. To check that it was really gone, I hit “about:config” in the search bar. A page came up that told of voiding my warranty, I clicked on the only button that said, “I’ll be careful, I promise”…searched for “visual bee” and “conduit” and they were gone. Somewhere in there I removed conduit something or other from my registry.

    It was a royal, freaky pain in the ass, because I am usually so careful. I wonder if I had just gotten complacent and not checked to see that I was on the “real” CNETt, because it was an unusual downloader to begin with. unlike anything I’d ever seen on CNET before. This whole java thing and the Homeland Security Advisory has me spooked the way it is. Cyber warfare and all…

  2. Rose says

    I guess CNET has been doing this quite a while…I can’t believe it’s been that long since I downloaded from them…this thing was more tenacious than any other toolbar add on I’d ever seen, though.