Adware providers Direct-revenue and Webhancer, among others, are using TRUSTe certificates in an attempt to appear more trustworthy than they really are, Edelman claimed.
Direct-revenue is facing legal action from the New York Attorney General for its adware software. Edelman alleged that Webhancer is often installed without the user's consent.
TRUSTe is a so-called certification authority, an independent organisation that issues security certificates to websites.
These certificates indicate that services adhere to certain privacy guidelines, allowing users to verify that they are actually on the website that they intended to visit.
The independent certificate authorities perform a background check to verify the identity of the website's operator and ensure compliance with privacy standards.
Websites that meet the organisation's criteria are allowed to display the TRUSTe logo.
However, the perceived trustworthiness of a certified website makes such certificates an attractive target for websites pushing malware and adware.
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