New details about how popular torrent application uTorrent generates profits have some security researches and consumer watch dogs fuming. According to one new report, uTorrent bundles an app that allows the company to make money off users PCs without them knowing.
Trusted Reviews was the first to break the news about uTorrent seemingly installing a bitcoin miner application on users computers when they download it. Every day Windows PC owners install uTorrent to grab files from different sharing sites like The Pirate Bay. It’s one of the biggest and most robust torrent clients on Windows there is.
The outlet’s original report indicated that it took their PCs more processing power to run absolutely nothing than it did before download uTorrent. After closing the uTorrent client and investigating the issue members of the uTorrent forum noticed a program called Epic Scale running. Epic Scale lets uTorrent make money off PCs by mining for digital currency. To be clear, the app doesn’t mess with data or spy on users. That being said, Epic Scale is one of the ways hackers make money off PCs they control.
Forum members insist that they weren’t asked for permission before the software was added to their PCs by the uTorrent installer. In a statement to The Verge, representatives from BitTorrent, uTorrent’s creator, insists that members of its own forum are mistaken. The company elaborates on what’s happening even more, saying, “Like many software companies, we have partner offers in our install path and our policy is that they are strictly optional.”
All told, it’s a complete mess, but one that users should be able to solve by uninstalling the extra app. Unfortunately, reports in the uTorrent forums also indicate that Epic Scale won’t fully uninstall for some reason. Until BitTorrent clarifies the situation it is probably a better idea to not install uTorrent on Windows PCs.
This is another big blow for Windows security. Last month Lenovo was caught including software on Windows notebooks that made them vulnerable to hackers. Called SuperFish, Lenovo responded to publicly outcry by promising to tone down the amount of software it partners with other companies to deliver. Big Scale is another example of why companies need to stay away from partnerships of this kind.
Essentially, PC makers and Bit Torrent are guilty of the same thing: letting makers of other programs use their connection with consumers as a delivery mechanism. A lot of the time, these pieces of software does nothing more than slow down start up times and add extra toolbars to Internet Explorer. Every once in a while it gets out of hand, as these two cases show. It’s a shame because Microsoft is doing more than it ever has to keep PCs secure.
With Windows 7 it debuted Windows Security Essentials, a completely free virus program to keep users safe. With Windows 8 it started building security into Windows. Windows 8 gets virus definition updates seamlessly through Windows Defender. To give users the option of a fresh Windows PC with no add-ons Microsoft Stores offer the Microsoft Signature program. Signature Edition PCs have all of their extra software removed.
The next step to prevent these kinds of things from happening en masse is for Microsoft to convince even more users to only download apps from the Windows Store that’s built-into Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 The company already offers Desktop programs that have been checked and approved in the Windows Store today.
Windows 10 will let the Windows Store apps run in the Desktop, making them more appealing to Windows users and more likely that PC buyers will turn there before seeking out things like torrent apps from online sources. The operating system should arrive as a free update for Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs later this year.
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