Ad Muncher is now available for free, with the goal of reaching 10 million users in three years’ time. The Australian startup has been bootstrapped by founder Murray Hurps for the past 15 years, and he says last week the time finally arrived to release the software for free. Ad Munchers’ software blocks ads in all internet browsers, removes advertising in programs, and blocks third party tracking systems. Over 100,000 people have paid for the software, which was available for $29.95 plus $19.95 per year after that. “After 15 years of charging and 100,000 plus people that have supported us, we’re in a position where we can finally take the leap,” Hurps says. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. “Basically we have to ramp up the user base, our competitor is Adblock Plus who have about 50 million active installations and because of that they’re a much more valuable company.” Hurps says plans for monetizing the product, once it gains significant traction would be by bundling with firewall or antivirus software, but nothing is certain yet. He says he will never accept payments from advertising companies to allow ads through Ad Munchers service, or money from companies wishing to install third-party software on Ad Muncher’s users’ systems. One thing that Hurps and the Ad Muncher team won’t have to worry about now the software is free is piracy, a long-running problem for Ad Muncher. It was such a problem it led to Hurps making a specific effort to make it more difficult for pirated versions of the software to become available. The effort was a success, resulting in pirated versions of Ad Muncher’s software being available a month after release, as opposed to the next day. “It’s always kind of flattering to see firstly people paying for your product and surprised and surprised by their support,” Hurps says. “Then people posting modified versions in order for people to use it for free. It’s all very flattering but at the same time slightly concerning. “Ad Muncher was boostrapped for 15 years and part of it was we had to rely on the sales to pay the bills.” While the issue of piracy online is dominated by the debate surrounding the film, music and entertainment industry, Hurps says it’s a different type of problem than the one that confronts software developers. “I think you look at Spotify as a final example of what can happen when it’s easy to pay a reasonable fee for a service, as soon as it’s easy to use and reasonably priced people are happy to pay for something,’’ he says. “There’s really easy things that copyright holders can do that make piracy unnecessary, like in particular to release TV and movies on the same schedule at the same time as the US and other countries. “I think software piracy is much less of a problem these days than it used to be. “People are seeing the value in paying a monthly subscription for Adobe Creative Suite. People are figuring out models that work.”
The Federal Department of Communications has warned small business owners to be vigilant following the discovery of a new scam involving fake electricity or gas bills. The scam involves fake bills purporting to be from EnergyAustralia which do not include a customer name or number, and are instead addressed with the generic line “Dear Valued Customer”. The emails also include a link to a malicious website, which is not controlled by EnergyAustralia, but includes many of the key details usually associated with an online billing site including an account number, billing period, due date and instructions for payment. A variation of the scam automatically downloads a malicious malware program, known as CryptoLocker. Upon installation, CryptoLocker encrypts key files on a computer, including work documents, photos, videos and music, then displays a countdown clock claiming users have 72 hours to pay a ransom or else their files will be deleted. According to the ACCC’s SCAMWatch website, CryptoLocker affects systems running Microsoft Windows, including Windows 7, XP and Vista. Antivirus software can remove the malware after an infection. However, since files are encrypted, the only way to restore them. In a statement, an EnergyAustralia spokesperson told SmartCompany small businesses should be cautious if they receive any unexpected emails from the company. “The [scam] letter contains a number of errors and does not include a customer’s name or account number,” the spokesperson said. “EnergyAustralia is warning people who receive the emails to delete it immediately or report the scam activity to our customer service centre 133 466; the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502 or a state or territory fair trading authority. “EnergyAustralia takes scam activity seriously and has reported this latest hoax to the relevant authorities to investigate.” Meanwhile, technology expert Paul Wallbank told SmartCompany the easiest way to avoid getting caught is to avoid any suspicious bills or emails. However, a change to the computer settings of users can also help prevent malware being loaded. “The important things are to have an up-to-date virus checker and to log into your computer as a limited user rather than as an administrator,” Wallbank says. “Unfortunately a lot of Windows users have their accounts set up with full administrator privileges, when only limited privileges are needed. So just using the limited privileges would be my advice for businesses. “It’s not just CryptoLocker it stops – it also stops a whole range of problems caused by systems settings being accidentally changed. And the good news is you can do it on a Mac, too.” This story first appeared on SmartCompany.
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