A few months ago, my computer was infected with a malware called Trovi, which caused browser redirects and forwarded my browsing history over the internet to someone else’s database. The infection proved stubborn because Trovi had infected both my Google+ account and the Skype installer for Windows. No matter how many times my anti-malware software removed Trovi, it came back every time I used the Google Chrome browser or installed Skype.
I ran the search term “Trovi” through search engines and found a wealth of what appeared to be consumer advocacy websites identifying the malware and proposing solutions to deal with it. Every one of those websites instructed me to download and install five or six different pieces of IT security software. This software was advertised as “FREE!” (in all caps with exclamation mark) but turned out to be trialware I would have been compelled to pay for after a free trial period. Needless to say, I didn’t do that. I just switched to Linux until Google had stopped bundling Trovi, although the Skype installer still appears to bundle it.
What was going on was obvious. Someone in IT security had had the bright idea to create software solutions for an as-yet-nonexistent malware and then entered into a business partnership with someone else who created the malware. Then, together, they created websites that disguised themselves as consumer advocacy but were in fact sales pitches for the software solutions. The goal of the entire thing was to create a market using the malware and then, through the pretense of trying to help people, get us to part with our money.
Some ethics-free members of our society would consider that a clever marketing idea. Others, me included, consider it tantamount to the Archangel Michael having a business deal with the devil. The very thought of IT security people partnering up with malware creators and then using the cover of consumer advocacy to do marketing is ethically repulsive and revolting to me–even if it’s totally within the limits of the law.
This kind of Satanic “cleverness” on the part of online sales and marketing people is not unique to the Trovi consortium. On nearly every website trying to sell goods or services for money, you find a variety of lawful but deceptive and manipulative practices designed to pick ypur pocket while protecting the website owner from legal liability. Online marketing and sales increasingly relies on deception and deliberately confusing website visitors. The dishonesty of online marketing and sales had reached epidemic levels.
Even within the context of today’s weaselly and dishonest online marketing and sales, however, Trovi was a new low that should provoke outrage. I thought it deserved documenting here.