Advertising Spyware: Clickspring WinServs / Winservn / PuritySCAN / sear1
is a program distributed by Clickspring LLC, an advertising company. Its
stated purpose is to scan your computer for hidden pornographic materials
and allow you to remove them.
Upon first loading, PuritySCAN (often named PuritySCAN.exe or sear1.exe) will scan your IE files (browser cache, history,
and cookies) for occurances of "dirty words" relating to pornography. (To
avoid getting myself branded as a porn site, the list of words will be left
to the reader's imagination.) The program will then display a list of any
files found to contain the words. It will also drop a copy of itself in the
Windows StartUp folder as "WINSERVS.EXE" or "WINSERVN.EXE". This copy will load at start-up
and spawn massive quantities of large popup ads when the user is online.
On our test installation, the parasite spawned 14 popup windows in a 45-minute
idle period, averaging one popup every 3.2 minutes.
NOTE: "Winservs.exe" may go under different names,
a now common one being "winservn.exe". Keep this in mind when following removal
The WINSERVS task is typically installed
by running the Purity Scan program from purityscan.com. However, Clickspring
offers an affiliate program that pays Webmasters to get people to run the
program, which may provide incentive for sites to attempt to load it in a
dishonest manner. The specimen we obtained did not display the License Agreement
and reported back what appeared to be an affiliate's username.
More recently it has come to my attention that porn sites, of all
places, are also installing this. Using a "drive-by-download" or a mislabeled
link claiming to be for a Webcam or porn viewer, it installs PurityScan on
your system and they get referral money.
Press Ctrl-Alt-Del once
to bring up the End Task dialogue. Highlight "WINSERVS" and select End Task.
(It may take a few moments for a "not responding" warning to appear. Press
End Task again.)
Now remove WINSERVS.EXE from your StartUp folder. This can be done by going
to Start > Settings > Taskbar, and clicking on the Start Menu tab.
Select "Remove". Find the StartUp folder on the list that appears, select
it if necessary, and delete the WINSERVS entry that appears there.
Clickspring provides the following uninstaller to remove PurityScan:
(name, email address, age, gender, zip code, country of residence) to third
parties for marketing purposes.
On our test installation, the
program found only 1 'objectionable' file (an non-pornographic image file,
whose binary data happened to contain the string 'pics'), even after intentionally
visiting a pornographic Web site and sites containing terms in the program's
"naughty word list".