WOT Services

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For the cryptography term, see Web of trust.
WOT Services
Wot logo slogan medium.png
Developer(s) WOT Services
Initial release 2007
Website www.mywot.com

MyWOT/WOT (Web of Trust) is a website reputation and review service that helps people make informed decisions about whether to trust a website or not. WOT is based on a crowdsourced approach that collects ratings and reviews.

The installed browser add-on, which is available for Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Internet Explorer, shows users the reputations of websites, which are calculated through a combination of user ratings and data from other sources. To generate revenue, WOT licenses the use of its reputation database to other businesses. In November 2016, the browser add-on was voluntarily removed from the Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera add-on stores by WOT Services after receiving notification by Mozilla that they are going to remove the add-on from their extension store until questions are answered, and changes are made to the app;[1] 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.[2][3] 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.

The safe browsing tool is available in two formats – users can either search a website's reputation on the WOT website or download a browser add-on that automatically checks every visited website's rating. The search feature allows people to assess the reputation and safety of any web address by typing the address into a search bar on the WOT website. Each web address is rated and assigned a score under two separate metrics – trustworthiness and child safety. User reviews are 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 are also presented with the opportunity to claim their site, giving them the opportunity to communicate with their website's users. Site owners can also request a review of their site's reputation score and add a custom description of their site to the scorecard.

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.[4]

In 2009, MySQL founder Michael Widenius invested in WOT and became a member of the board of directors.[5] WOT Services is no longer a portfolio company of Widenius's venture capital firm, OpenOcean.vc.[6] In February 2016, WOT Services changed its name to TOW Software, which is liquidated since 30 June 2016.[7]

WOT Services has partnered with Facebook, hpHosts, LegitScript, Mail.ru, Panda Security, Phishtank, GlobalSign and TRUSTe.[8][9][10][11][12]

In November 2013, WOT had over 100 million downloads.[13]

WOT services[edit]

WOT offers other services in addition the WOT safe browsing add-on for web browsers.[14] Filter by WOT is a customizable content filtering tool that allows users to choose what kind of web content they want to see. The service is 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 is a free app on the Google Play Store that notifies users when they browse unsafe websites on their mobile devices. The WOT Mobile application works on both the Chrome browser and users' native mobile browsers. WOT Mobile utilizes user reputation ratings to display warning notifications to users when they are about to browse websites with poor user ratings.

WOT Services also offers its original browser add-on for enterprise use. This allows companies to install the WOT add-on to employees' computers for free after each company's details are registered on the WOT website.

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

The rating tool[edit]

According to the company information the WOT software computes the measure of trust the rating users have in websites, combined with data from, among others, Google Safe Browsing. The WOT browser add-on is available for all major operating systems and browsers. To view or submit ratings, no subscription is required. To be able to write comments on score cards and in the forum, one needs to be registered.

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

Ratings are cast by secret ballot. They can be given in the categories "trustworthiness" and "child safety". To specify at least one reason for a rating is mandatory, via multiple choice in the rating interface.

The user rating system is 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.[15][16]

Before discovery of the privacy breach, press reviews had been positive. The New York Times and the Washington Post had written about WOT[17][18][19] 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.

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.[20]

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.[21][22]

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.".[23]

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 collects, records, analyzes and sells user-related data to third-parties.[24][25][26] The data obtained was traceable to WOT and could be assigned to specific individuals, despite WOT's claim that they anonymize user data.[27][28] The investigation was based on freely available sample data, and revealed that sensitive private information of more than 50 users could be retrieved.[25] 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.[24]

German media contacted WOT with the results of the investigation prior to publication of the report. WOT chose not to comment on the findings at that time.[24][25]

As a result of these findings, Mozilla has removed the Web of Trust plugin for Firefox. WOT has subsequently removed other browser extensions, including for Chrome and Opera.[29][30]

Web of Trust Services announced in a December 19, 2016 blog post that they had upgraded their browser extension, which was released in the Google Chrome extension gallery, which includes "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."[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. ^ Ltd., WOT Services (2016-11-06). "To the WOT community | Forum | WOT (Web of Trust)". www.mywot.com. MyWOT Team. Retrieved 2016-11-15. 
  2. ^ "Web of Trust (WOT) Add-on taken down by Chrome & Firefox". TWCN Tech News. 2016-11-05. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 
  3. ^ "'Web Of Trust' Browser Extension Cannot Be Trusted". PCMAG. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 
  4. ^ "Web of Trust (WOT) – Crowdsourced web safety". Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  5. ^ Modine, Austin (17 February 2009). "The Register - MySQL daddy juices Finnish security firm". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "Portfolio - Previous Investments". OpenOcean. Retrieved 26 November 2016. 
  7. ^ "Yritys- ja yhteisötietojärjestelmä - Yrityshaku". tietopalvelu.ytj.fi. BIS Business Information System - YTJ. Retrieved 26 November 2016. 
  8. ^ "Facebook Security - Keeping You Safe from Scams and Spam". 12 May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Mail.Ru Group Launches New Browser Featuring Web of Trust Safe-Surfing Technology" (Press release). Rocket Science PR. 8 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Schaffhauser, Dian (11 August 2009). "The Journal - Panda Security, Against Intuition Offer Free 'Web of Trust' Browser Addon". Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Friends of PhishTank". Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "GlobalSign - GlobalSign Partners with Web of Trust to Provide Reputation Data in the Website Passport". 15 March 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "Web of Trust hits 100 million Downloads Milestone". 12 November 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  14. ^ 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 
  15. ^ "WOT Safe Browsing Tool". Mozilla Addons. Retrieved 2016-11-20. 
  16. ^ Paul, Ian. "Web of Trust browser extensions yanked after proving untrustworthy". PC World. Retrieved 2016-11-20. 
  17. ^ Richmond, Riva (19 May 2010). "New York Times - Five Ways to Keep Online Criminals at Bay". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  18. ^ Krebs, Brian (29 July 2008). "Washington Post - Three Quarters of Malicious Web Sites Are Hacked". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  19. ^ Bell, Melissa (13 May 2011). "Washington Post - After big news stories, watch out for social media viruses". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  20. ^ Rubenking, Neil J. (Aug 13, 2009). "PC Magazine - Web of Trust Review and Rating". Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  21. ^ Gralla, Preston (26 April 2009). "PCWorld - Say WOT? Web of Trust Rates Web Site Safety". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  22. ^ Broida, Rick (4 January 2010). "PCWorld - Make Your New PC Hassle-Free, Part 3: Keep It Secure". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  23. ^ Ilascu, Ionut (26 September 2013). "Softpedia - Web of Trust Review". Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ online, heise. "Millionen Surf-Profile: Daten stammen angeblich auch von Browser-Addon WOT". heise online (in German). Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  27. ^ online, heise. "Daten zu Surfverhalten von Millionen Deutschen als "kostenlose Probe"". heise online (in German). Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  28. ^ "WOT-Addon: Wie ein Browser-Addon seine Nutzer ausspäht". kuketz-blog.de (in German). Retrieved 2016-11-02. 
  29. ^ "WOT Safe Browsing Tool". Mozilla Addons. Retrieved 2016-11-20. 
  30. ^ Paul, Ian. "Web of Trust browser extensions yanked after proving untrustworthy". PC World. Retrieved 2016-11-20. 
  31. ^ "We're back!". MyWOT Blog. Retrieved 2017-01-03. 
  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.