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BonziBuddy promotional logo previously at Bonzi.com
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows|
BonziBuddy (officially distributed as BonziBUDDY) was a piece of adware, though claims of spyware capabilities have been made against it. It was distributed by Bonzi Software between 1999 and 2004.
It gained access to users systems by including an on-screen "intelligent" software agent which supposedly would help a user surf the Internet by using Microsoft Agent technology. In 1999, the software used a green parrot called Peedy licensed from Microsoft, and in later versions, Bonzi Software made their own fictional character, a purple gorilla. The on-screen agent would tell jokes, facts, manage downloading using its download manager, sing songs and other functions. The user would command the character by right clicking on the character's stomach on which a menu would appear. Bonzi's homepage remained open after the discontinuation of BonziBuddy and the website disappeared at the end of 2008.
BonziBuddy was typical of most trojan adware of the era, displaying advertising over the top of legitimate web content, amongst other functions.
The software was distributed from www.bonzi.com, and contained in a file named bbsetup.exe. Once the file was downloaded, the installer would download files directly to the hard drive and install the Microsoft Agent program. During the installation, a diagram would appear, expressing the text, "BonziBUDDY is coming to life!" and as the installation would near its completion, the image of the BonziBUDDY logo without the text as shown would add a bit of color. After the installation, the program would launch and Bonzi would say the following:
"Well, hello there! I don't believe we have been properly introduced."
"I'm Bonzi! What is your name?"
(User enters the nickname or name they prefer to be called at this point to continue.)
"Nice to meet you, (Name!)"
"Since this is the first time we have met, I would like to tell you a bit about myself."
"I am your friend, and BonziBUDDY! I have the ability to learn from you. The more we browse, search, and travel together, the smarter I'll become!"
(The BonziBuddy does an animation before continuing.)
"Not that I'm not already smart!"
Bonzi then would ask the user if they would like to set their homepage to www.bonzi.com, but if not, it will then say: "Now, let's give it a whirl! Go ahead and click on me with your right mouse button!"
A menu would appear with many different things that the specific BonziBuddy could do.
Below is a summary of the releases of BonziBuddy and how they have changed. During 2005, BonziBuddy was no longer available.
|BonziBuddy||1.0.0||First version originally with Microsoft's green parrot, Peedy.||2000|
|BonziBuddy||184.108.40.206||Updated menu, added hotkey for quiet mode.||2000|
|BonziBuddy||220.127.116.11||Last Peedy update. When 3.5 update was available, Peedy would ask if the user would like to meet a new friend called Bonzi.||2000|
|BonziBuddy||3.5.0||A purple gorilla named Bonzi. New BonziWorld Menu. Bonzi's entrance from surf board. New sound effects and animations. New jungle-like interface added.||2000|
|BonziBuddy||3.7.1||New functions such as "Save You Money!" or "Check For Virus Alerts". Depending on next versions it might reset the homepage to www.bonzi.com.||2001|
|BonziBuddy||18.104.22.168||Mainly bug fixes?||2004|
|BonziBuddy||4.1.9||Removal of the BonziWorld menu and went back to the menu since 2.0. Bonzi's entrance swings from vine.||2004|
|BonziBuddy||4.1.12||Mainly Bug Fixes. Last known version before Bonzi Software went out of business.||2004|
In April 2007, PCWorld readers voted BonziBuddy 6th on a list of "The 20 Most Annoying Tech Products". One reader was quoted as criticizing the program because it "kept popping up and obscuring things you needed to see."
One of the last newspapers to write about BonziBuddy while it was still in distribution described it as spyware and a "scourge of the Internet". Another article found in 2006 on the BusinessWeek website described BonziBuddy as "the unbelievably annoying spyware trojan horse".
Adware or spyware
A number of sources identify BonziBuddy as spyware, a claim the company disputes. In 2002 an article in Consumer Reports Web Watch labelled BonziBuddy as spyware, stating that it contains a Backdoor Santa in that it collects information from users. Among the activities the program is said to engage in include constantly resetting the user's web browser homepage to bonzi.com without the user's permission, prompting and tracking various information about the user, and serving advertisements.
The Spyware Removal Database at Safer Networking (makers of Spybot – Search & Destroy) states "BonziBuddy is an Internet Explorer toolbar that may change your web browser settings, change your home page, and launch pop-up advertisements while tracking your web browsing habits."
Spyware Guide's entry on the program states that it is adware.
There were two legal cases about the software.
- Internetnews.com reported the settlement of a class action suit on May 27, 2003. Originally brought against Bonzi Software on December 4, 2002, the suit accused Bonzi of using its banner advertisements to deceptively imitate Windows computer alerts, alerting the user that their IP address is being broadcast. In the settlement, Bonzi agreed to modify their ads so that they looked less like Windows dialog boxes and more like advertisements.
- On February 18, 2004, the Federal Trade Commission released a statement indicating that Bonzi Software, Inc. was ordered to pay $75,000 in fees, among other aspects, for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 with BonziBuddy.
- Geschwind, Bill (2004-08-11). "AppNote: Automating the installation and execution of Spybot Search & Destroy with ZENworks". Novell Cool Solutions. Novell. Retrieved 2007-07-14. "Hotbar, Bonzi Buddy, Gator eWallet and Comet Cursors ... are all spyware-laden programs that I have encountered far too often in the field on my users' machine"
- Mark Hachman (2003-05-28). ""Bonzi Buddy" Creator Settles Suit". ExtremeTech. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- "Counter Spy's entry on BonziBuddy". Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- "The 20 Most Annoying Tech Products". PCWorld. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
- Kladko, Brian (2004-03-21). "Prying Eyes Lurk Inside Your PC; Spyware Spawns Efforts at Control.". The Gale Group, Inc. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
- "Breaking: MySpace Backlash Sighted In Mainstream Media!". Businessweek. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
- Vincentas (16 July 2013). "BonziBuddy in SpyWareLoop.com". Spyware Loop. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
- Robertson Barrett (2002-11-21). "Five Major Categories of Spyware". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- "Spyware Guide's entry on BonziBuddy". Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- "ADW_BONZIBUDDY.C". Threat Encyclopedia. Trend Micro. 2004-06-08. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
- "Adware.Bonzi". 2007-02-13. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
- Brian Morrissey (2003-05-27). "Bonzi Settles Deceptive Ad Suit". internetnews.com. Retrieved 2003-06-06.archive.org link
- Brian Morrissey (2002-12-04). "Bonzi Hit With Deceptive-Ad Complaint". internetnews.com. Retrieved 2003-06-18. archive.org link
- "UMG Recordings, Inc. to Pay $400,000, Bonzi Software, Inc. To Pay $75,000 to Settle COPPA Civil Penalty Charges". Federal Trade Commission. 2004-02-18. Retrieved 2006-09-07.