Free Web Browser May Give You More Than You Asked For

A free Web browser that bills itself as a tool for privacy protection is, in fact, a click-fraud engine for pornographic Web sites, security vendor Panda Software warned today.

Browsezilla, whose name and Lizard-like mascot are reminiscent of the open-source Mozilla browser products, claims to help surfers cover their tracks when visiting pornographic sites. It does not use browser history or save data to a cache, and it allows users to save their bookmarks on a remote server, according to the product's Web site.

However, Browsezilla also secretly installs adware that boosts the page view counts on certain pornographic Web sites, according to J.J. Schoch, director of marketing with Panda. "It's being used deceptively to get more hits on their site," Schoch says. "This adware opens a series of adult web pages, although they are not visible to the user."

Why the Warning Was Issued

On its Web site, Panda describes itself as a provider of integrated security solutions to protect PCs from viruses, spyware, hackers, spam, and other Internet threats.

The company issued a press release warning about the browser, after noticing that Browsezilla was becoming more widely used. Although the browser has been adopted by users in a number of countries, it appears to be most popular in Italy, Schoch says.

Schoch adds that this is the first browser he has seen that downloads this type of click-generating software.

Panda is drawing attention to the matter because it believes the browser's creators are acting in a deceptive manner that ultimately could harm unsuspecting users, Schoch explains. "It's not going to wreck your computer, but it could taint somebody's reputation," he notes.

Users might already be wary of the software, even without Panda's warning. The Browsezilla download page features an "Adult links" section with hard-core pornographic images, a rarity in browser download sites.

The Browsezilla team called Panda's allegations "unsubstantiated" in a statement on the Browsezilla.com Web site, but the group shed little light on the situation when asked for further comment on Panda's press release.

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