BitTorrent Falls Victim To Spyware / Adware

BitTorrent users, beware: Your download may include adware and spyware.

Purveyors of the applications that produce pop-up ads on PC screens and track browsing habits have discovered BitTorrent as a new distribution channel. According to observers of the trend, videos and music that hide adware and spyware are increasingly being offered for download on various BitTorrent Web sites.

BitTorrent has grown into one of the most widely used means of downloading files such as movies or software. Unlike peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa, eDonkey and the original Napster, no central search technology exists for BitTorrent. Instead, links to specific files are posted on Web sites.

While applications such as Kazaa have long been associated with adware and spyware, BitTorrent has not. Until now, that is. Chris Boyd, a security researcher who runs the Vital Security Web site, said he found adware and spyware hiding in BitTorrent files.

In one case, an episode of the Fox TV show “Family Guy” was bundled with several pieces of known adware, according to Boyd. “Under that kind of load, a midrange PC can easily go under,” Boyd said. Both spyware and adware are known to hurt PC performance because they use PC resources to run.

In other examples, music files and porn videos came bundled with adware or spyware, Boyd said in an e-mail interview. He suspects that online marketers have launched campaigns to get their software installed on more desktops using BitTorrent.

“This is one of the most egregious spyware infestations that we have seen,” said Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software, a maker of anti-spyware software. “It is a major concern. It is going to riddle your system with pop-ups, slow your system down and potentially cause system instability.”

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