Microsoft puts Man-in-the-Middle Adware on the Banlist

Not only does Man-in-the-Middle adware often present potential security issues, but it’s also downright annoying.

Microsoft announced yesterday that it made the decision to improve the browsing experience of users on its Windows platforms by changing its adware policies in regards to those techniques. Adware is without doubt a big problem on desktop computers running Windows. While there are different types of adware available, from programs that display advertisement to the user in their interface to programs that modify core system or program settings, or inject themselves into programs or connections.

Microsoft notes that so-called Man-in-the-Middle techniques have evolved in recent time, and that a variety of techniques are being used today.

Some of these techniques include injection by proxy, changing DNS settings, network layer manipulation and other methods

All of these techniques have in common that they intercept Internet traffic to inject advertisement into the browser from the “outside” giving users no control over the process and often making it difficult to spot the injection or remove the program responsible for it from the system.

Man-in-the-Middle adware

adware example

Man-in-the-Middle techniques cause additional concerns according to Microsoft, including putting users at risk of attacks or reducing choice and control that users have.

To fight the issue, Microsoft decided to alter its adware policy.

To address these and to keep the intent of our policy, we’re updating our Adware objective criteria to require that programs that create advertisements in browsers must only use the browsers’ supported extensibility model for installation, execution, disabling, and removal.

Basically, adware needs to be distributed as browser add-ons or other forms of extensions to make it easier for users to identify adware and decide whether it should be run on the system or not.

Considering that major browser companies are enforcing add-on signatures, it is likely that the move is going to reduce Man-in-the-Middle adware on Windows systems significantly.

Programs that fail to comply to these new terms will be detected and removed. The enforcement of the policy starts o March 31, 2016.

Microsoft does not reveal additional information about the policy change. It is unclear right now for instance how the company plans to detect these programs, and what their removal will include.

The most likely scenario is that Microsoft’s anti-malware tools — Windows Defender for instance — will be used to ban adware that does not comply with the policy.

It means however that Microsoft needs to be aware of these programs in first place before it can analyze them and take further action.

It is unclear as well if these new policies are enforced on systems where Microsoft security software has been replaced by third-party software.

Microsoft updated its adware policies in April 2014 the last time. Back then, it enforced new rules such as offering a clear option to exit that programs needed to adhere by.

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