WOT Services

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WOT Services
Wot logo slogan medium.png
Developer(s) WOT Services
Initial release 2007
Website www.mywot.com

MyWOT/WOT (Web of Trust) was a browser add-on and web site. After being found to have breached the privacy rules and guidelines set by several browsers, the browser add-on was removed from distribution November 2016. Before its removal, WOT secretly collected and disseminated personal information about its users. Ironically, WOT billed itself as a trustworthy website reputation and review service and purported to provide crowdsourced reviews and other data regarding whether web sites other than itself were trustworthy in respecting user privacy and security. The ratings were presented primarily through WOT's browser add-in. WOT aggregated crowdsourced website reputation information and personal user details and sold or licensed this information to other unidentified businesses and entities.

Users were encouraged to download the browser add-on that automatically tracked the users browsing while also checking the reputation rating of every website visited. Users could also search a website's reputation on the WOT website. A search feature allowed users to do a search regarding the reputation and safety of any web address by typing the address into a search bar on the WOT website. Each web address was rated and assigned a score under two separate metrics – trustworthiness and child safety. User reviews were also presented underneath the scorecard for each website, expressing each user's own reason(s) for trusting or not trusting a given site. Website owners were also presented with the opportunity to claim their site, which gave them the opportunity to communicate with their website's users. Site owners could request a review of their site's reputation score or add a custom description of their site to the scorecard. Although it was engaged in a systematic massive invasion into the privacy of its users, WOT consistently rated its own site as trustworthy.

Privacy issues[edit]

On November 1, 2016, German public broadcasting station NDR reported the results of an investigation by in-house journalists, showing that WOT collected, recorded, analyzed and sold user-related data to third-parties.[1][2][3] The data obtained was traceable to WOT and could be assigned to specific individuals, despite WOT's claim that to anonymize user data.[4][5] The magazine's investigation was based on freely available sample data, and revealed that sensitive private information of more than 50 users could be retrieved.[2] The information included websites visited, account names and email addresses, potentially revealing user illnesses, sexual preferences and drug consumption. The journalists also reconstructed a media company's confidential revenue data, and details about an ongoing police investigation.[1]

German media contacted WOT with the results of the investigation prior to publication of the report. WOT refused comment on the findings.[1][2]

As a result of this spying on users and selling user information Mozilla removed the Web of Trust plugin for Firefox. WOT subsequently removed other browser extensions, including for Chrome and Opera.[6][7]

In a blog post on December 19, 2016, Web of Trust Services claimed that they had upgraded their browser extension. In the blog, WOT said that as released in the Google Chrome extension gallery, the upgrade included "several major code updates in order to protect our users privacy and an opt-out option from the user Settings, for users who do not wish to share data with us but still want to have easy access to WOT."[8]

History[edit]

WOT Services was founded in 2006 by Sami Tolvanen and Timo Ala-Kleemola, who wrote the WOT software as post-graduates at the Tampere University of Technology in Finland. They launched the service officially in 2007, with Esa Suurio as CEO. Suurio was replaced in November 2009, and both founders left the company in 2014.[9]

In 2009, MySQL founder Michael Widenius invested in WOT and became a member of the board of directors.[10] WOT Services is no longer a portfolio company of Widenius's venture capital firm, OpenOcean.vc.[11] In February 2016, WOT Services changed its name to TOW Software, which is shown in records as liquidated since 30 June 2016.[12]

WOT Services has partnerships with Mail.ru, Facebook, hpHosts, LegitScript, Panda Security, Phishtank, GlobalSign and TRUSTe.[13][14][15][16][17]

By November 2013, WOT had over 100 million downloads.[18]

In November 2016, Mozilla removed the browser add-on from the Firefox extension store; some days after receiving the removal notice from Mozilla the add-on was claimed to be voluntarily withdrawn from Google Chrome and Opera add-on stores.[19] Mozilla was alerted due to the findings of the German public broadcasting station NDR, which found that the add-on breached the privacy rules and guidelines set by Google, Mozilla, and Opera Software.[20][21] See WOT Privacy issues. The WOT "Mobile Security & Protection" mobile app was removed from Google Play at a later date, approximately one week after the add-on was removed from the Google Chrome extension store; it is not known if the app was voluntarily removed by the app developer, or not.

WOT services[edit]

WOT offered a WOT "safe browsing" add-on for web browsers,[22] available for Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Internet Explorer.

Other services included "Filter by WOT", a customizable content filtering tool that allows users to choose what kind of web content they want to see. The service was available for Google Chrome as a free add-on. Apart from allowing users to control which sites, domains, or pages they want to display, Filter by WOT also has a keyword scanner that automatically blocks any page that a given keyword appears on.

WOT Mobile was a free app on the Google Play Store that notified users when they browsed unsafe websites on their mobile devices (other than the WOT site itself). The WOT Mobile application worked on both the Chrome browser and users' native mobile browsers. WOT Mobile utilized user reputation ratings to display warning notifications to users when they are about to browse websites with poor user ratings.

WOT Services also offered its original browser add-on for enterprise use. This encouraged companies to install the WOT add-on to employees' computers registering details on the WOT website.

The MyWOT website had a community section with a forum, a blog and a Wiki. The forum was used for community members to discuss website ratings, security, and online safety. The blog was updated regularly with information for readers about browsing safely on the web.

The rating tool[edit]

According to the company information the WOT software computed a measure of the trust that the rating users had in websites, combined with data from, among others, Google Safe Browsing. The WOT browser add-on was available for all major operating systems and browsers. To view or submit ratings, no subscription was required. Users were required to register before being allowed to write comments on score cards or in the forum.

The add-on sent user ratings to the WOT site, and it determined how the computed results were displayed, depending on user's settings. For instance, when visiting a poorly rated site, a warning screen might have pop up, or only a red icon in the user's browser tool-bar might have been shown. Color-coded icons were also shown next to external links on the pages of leading search engines, on email services, on social network sites, and on Wikipedia.

Ratings were cast by secret ballot. Sites could be rated in the categories "trustworthiness" and "child safety". To specify at least one reason for a rating was mandatory, via multiple choice in the rating interface.

The user rating system was meritocratic; the weight of a rating is algorithmically calculated for each user individually.

Reviews[edit]

WOT was discovered to be selling personally identifiable user data in November, 2016. This breach of user privacy, initially discovered and reported by investigative journalists in Germany, was widely reported in the press, resulting in the removal of the Web of Trust plugin from all major browsers.[23][24]

Before discovery of the privacy breach, press reviews had been positive. The New York Times and the Washington Post had written about WOT[25][26][27] and the add-on had been mentioned and reviewed by the trade press and download sites. The reviewers opinions had varied from good to excellent, though some critical remarks were made.

Before the news of WOT reselling its users personal information broke, PC Magazine's Neil Rubenking had concluded "Web of Trust's protection is free, and it doesn't impact browsing speed; it's well worth trying out". However, on the minus side he found several clearly adult sites unrated and he wished WOT would also rate sponsored search results, like its main competitors do.[28]

PC World's Preston Gralla had concluded: "Try WOT (Web of Trust), an excellent--and free--browser add-on that offers protection", and Rick Broida had written in an article before discovery of the breach that he recommended Web of Trust.[29][30]

Softpedia reviewer Ionut Ilascu had written: "The reliability of the service has grown in the past years, despite voices accusing it of being exactly the opposite of what it should be, and proof is the collaboration with Facebook, Opera and Mail.ru Group.", concluding "As a service, WOT (Web of Trust) may be viewed as biased, but the latest developments in balancing the user opinion in order to provide relevant information point to the contrary. The extension is non-obtrusive but still has room for improvements.".[31]

Lawsuits[edit]

In February 2011, a lawsuit in Florida, USA was filed against WOT and some of its forum members, demanding that WOT remove certain website ratings and associated comments cautioning about phishing scams.[32] The court ordered that the case be dismissed with prejudice (the equivalent of a verdict of not guilty under US law). In Germany, some preliminary injunctions were issued by courts, to delete feedback.[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Eckert, Svea; Klofta, Jasmin; Strozyk, Jan Lukas (2016-11-01). "Browser-Erweiterung gibt Daten weiter - "Web of Trust" späht Nutzer aus" [Browser extension gives away user data - "Web of Trust" spies on users] (in German). Tagesschau. Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  2. ^ a b c gru (2016-11-01). "NDR-Bericht über "Web of Trust" - Beliebte Browser-Erweiterung spioniert offenbar Nutzer aus" [NDR report regarding "web of trust" - Popular browser extension spies users] (in German). Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  3. ^ online, heise. "Millionen Surf-Profile: Daten stammen angeblich auch von Browser-Addon WOT". heise online (in German). Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  4. ^ online, heise. "Daten zu Surfverhalten von Millionen Deutschen als "kostenlose Probe"". heise online (in German). Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  5. ^ "WOT-Addon: Wie ein Browser-Addon seine Nutzer ausspäht". kuketz-blog.de (in German). Retrieved 2016-11-02. 
  6. ^ "WOT Safe Browsing Tool". Mozilla Addons. Retrieved 2016-11-20. 
  7. ^ Paul, Ian. "Web of Trust browser extensions yanked after proving untrustworthy". PC World. Retrieved 2016-11-20. 
  8. ^ "We're back!". MyWOT Blog. Retrieved 2017-01-03. 
  9. ^ "Web of Trust (WOT) – Crowdsourced web safety". Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  10. ^ Modine, Austin (17 February 2009). "The Register - MySQL daddy juices Finnish security firm". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  11. ^ "Portfolio - Previous Investments". OpenOcean. Retrieved 26 November 2016. 
  12. ^ Citation in Finnish: "Yritys- ja yhteisötietojärjestelmä - Yrityshaku". tietopalvelu.ytj.fi. BIS Business Information System - YTJ. Retrieved 26 November 2016. 
  13. ^ "Facebook Security - Keeping You Safe from Scams and Spam". 12 May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "Mail.Ru Group Launches New Browser Featuring Web of Trust Safe-Surfing Technology" (Press release). Rocket Science PR. 8 August 2012. 
  15. ^ Schaffhauser, Dian (11 August 2009). "The Journal - Panda Security, Against Intuition Offer Free 'Web of Trust' Browser Addon". Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  16. ^ "Friends of PhishTank". Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  17. ^ "GlobalSign - GlobalSign Partners with Web of Trust to Provide Reputation Data in the Website Passport". 15 March 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  18. ^ "Web of Trust hits 100 million Downloads Milestone". 12 November 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  19. ^ Ltd., WOT Services (2016-11-06). "To the WOT community | Forum | WOT (Web of Trust)". www.mywot.com. MyWOT Team. Retrieved 2016-11-15. 
  20. ^ "Web of Trust (WOT) Add-on taken down by Chrome & Firefox". TWCN Tech News. 2016-11-05. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 
  21. ^ "'Web Of Trust' Browser Extension Cannot Be Trusted". PCMAG. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 
  22. ^ Pott, Trevor (10 August 2010). "A secure browser means a happy sysadmin". theregister.co.uk. The Register. Retrieved 5 November 2016. everyone with WOT installed can see the rating that other WOT users give to a site, and use a simple interface to add their ratings to the database 
  23. ^ "WOT Safe Browsing Tool". Mozilla Addons. Retrieved 2016-11-20. 
  24. ^ Paul, Ian. "Web of Trust browser extensions yanked after proving untrustworthy". PC World. Retrieved 2016-11-20. 
  25. ^ Richmond, Riva (19 May 2010). "New York Times - Five Ways to Keep Online Criminals at Bay". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  26. ^ Krebs, Brian (29 July 2008). "Washington Post - Three Quarters of Malicious Web Sites Are Hacked". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  27. ^ Bell, Melissa (13 May 2011). "Washington Post - After big news stories, watch out for social media viruses". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  28. ^ Rubenking, Neil J. (Aug 13, 2009). "PC Magazine - Web of Trust Review and Rating". Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  29. ^ Gralla, Preston (26 April 2009). "PCWorld - Say WOT? Web of Trust Rates Web Site Safety". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  30. ^ Broida, Rick (4 January 2010). "PCWorld - Make Your New PC Hassle-Free, Part 3: Keep It Secure". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  31. ^ Ilascu, Ionut (26 September 2013). "Softpedia - Web of Trust Review". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  32. ^ Perälä, Vesa (24 February 2011). "Safe Surfing Tool Web of Trust Sued over Community Warnings". Helsinki: Vocus/PRWeb. Retrieved 5 November 2016. 
  33. ^ "WOT Wins Lawsuit In The US". ArcticStartup. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2011.