Hackers turn tables on file-swapping firms

For the past several weeks, the pseudonymous programmer, who says he's a male college student and declines to give his real name, has been releasing versions of popular file-swapping programs online with the advertising and user-tracking features stripped out.

He's done Grokster and iMesh. And he's not alone. His work, now available through the Grokster and iMesh networks themselves, joins that of other programmers who have previously "cleaned" programs such as Kazaa and Audiogalaxy in a campaign against "adware" and "spyware."

"I've never been a big fan of large companies spying on their users," Dr. Damn wrote in an instant messenger interview. "Especially me."

The college student and his "Clean Clients" site form just one part of a growing backlash against the software now routinely bundled with free file trading programs. These piggyback software packages, which include Gator, Cydoor, and others, often track computer users' activity online to show them targeted advertisements. In Altnet's case, the add-on promises to turn users' computers into links in a new for-profit peer-to-peer network.

The "clean" software movement, which threatens to pinch off the stream of advertising and bundling revenues that supports free software, has put the file-swapping companies in an awkward position. For years, record companies and movie studios have complained that Napster, Kazaa, Morpheus and others were contributing to the theft of their intellectual property.

Now those same companies, seeking revenue to support their own businesses, are complaining that their intellectual property is being hijacked. In almost every case, the hacked version of their software is even being distributed through their own file-swapping networks.

News source: CNet News

View: CleanClients

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