Microsoft puts Man-in-the-Middle adware on the banlist

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 22, 2015
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Microsoft

Microsoft announced yesterday that it made the decision to improve the browsing experience of users on its Windows platforms by changing its adware policies in regards to those techniques.

Adware is without doubt a big problem on desktop computers running Windows. While there are different types of adware available, from programs that display advertisement to the user in their interface to programs that modify core system or program settings, or inject themselves into programs or connections.

Microsoft notes that so-called Man-in-the-Middle techniques have evolved in recent time, and that a variety of techniques are being used today.

Some of these techniques include injection by proxy, changing DNS settings, network layer manipulation and other methods

All of these techniques have in common that they intercept Internet traffic to inject advertisement into the browser from the "outside" giving users no control over the process and often making it difficult to spot the injection or remove the program responsible for it from the system.

Man-in-the-Middle adware

Man-in-the-Middle techniques cause additional concerns according to Microsoft, including putting users at risk of attacks or reducing choice and control that users have.

To fight the issue, Microsoft decided to alter its adware policy.

To address these and to keep the intent of our policy, we’re updating our Adware objective criteria to require that programs that create advertisements in browsers must only use the browsers’ supported extensibility model for installation, execution, disabling, and removal.

Basically, adware needs to be distributed as browser add-ons or other forms of extensions to make it easier for users to identify adware and decide whether it should be run on the system or not.

Considering that major browser companies are enforcing add-on signatures, it is likely that the move is going to reduce Man-in-the-Middle adware on Windows systems significantly.

Programs that fail to comply to these new terms will be detected and removed. The enforcement of the policy starts o March 31, 2016.

Microsoft does not reveal additional information about the policy change. It is unclear right now for instance how the company plans to detect these programs, and what their removal will include.

The most likely scenario is that Microsoft's anti-malware tools -- Windows Defender for instance -- will be used to ban adware that does not comply with the policy.

It means however that Microsoft needs to be aware of these programs in first place before it can analyze them and take further action.

It is unclear as well if these new policies are enforced on systems where Microsoft security software has been replaced by third-party software.

Microsoft updated its adware policies in April 2014 the last time. Back then, it enforced new rules such as offering a clear option to exit that programs needed to adhere by.

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Microsoft puts Man-in-the-Middle adware on the banlist
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Microsoft puts Man-in-the-Middle adware on the banlist
Microsoft announced that it made the decision to improve the browsing experience of users on its Windows platforms in regards to Man-in-the-Middle adware.

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  1. John Ward said on January 6, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    I believe that we should wait and see the effectiveness of the new policy before jumping to conclusions with only a little information. Give the update a chance to work before complaining. Man in the middle pops in when you are working on important issues and it takes over the whole screen. I find that sometimes i have to close down the computer to get rid of this nuisance and then restart my program. This is extremely bothersome. I have not had that effect yet with Ms ads.

  2. albresc said on January 2, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    For me the Office 365 spam filters are working great. After years and years of the old Exchange server, then Gmail and now ‘Office 365 mail’, I´m receiving a minimum of spam and almost no false positives.
    I also receive notifications of blocked messages, due to attachments with malware, clearly identified, and 100% from addresses I don´t know and never contacted, obviously. If this is not spam… don´t know what it is.

    I cannot say the same about my other (the old Hotmail) account.
    Seems to me that MS may be doing some things right at least for paying customers…

    My Gmail account is the one that gets -and doesn´t find- more spam.

  3. Gary D said on December 24, 2015 at 12:27 am

    No Graham, you do not sound condescending or rude. I appreciate your input and will look at the suggestions which you made. Thanks.

  4. jern said on December 22, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    The Pot calling the Kettle black.

  5. Corky said on December 22, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    What about adware programs that don’t create advertisements in browsers, like Microsoft’s own GWX adware?

    1. Gary D said on December 22, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      I’ve been using Hotmail for about 16 years. My contact list is around 200. I am reluctant to change to another email provider because of the time and effort need to find 1) new email account names and 2) send emails to my contacts giving the new email address.
      Since two weeks ago, after I’ve checked my emails and signed out, the MSN page is displayed.
      RIGHT in the MIDDLE of the MSN home page is a huge blue box recommending that I should update to Win 10 with a button for “learn more”. Luckily, there is an exit cross in the top right hand corner. I wonder how long it will be before I can only exit Hotmail by clicking on “learn more”.
      There is another way to exit but It is very annoying. MS MITM advertising ! :(

      1. Decent60 said on December 24, 2015 at 3:50 am


        I respectfully disagree with Yahoo Mail having a better spam filter. I’ve had my Hotmail account longer than my Yahoo mail and I’ve reached the total amount of Spam email addresses Yahoo will allow me to block. I still get over 200 spam emails a month.
        Hotmail, not so much anymore. Hotmail, at one point, had a “block all except for those in my contacts” but about 5 years after that, they removed that feature without telling anyone and now the spam comes in, but not that much anymore (might be due to my hotmail account was ‘suspended’ due to me not signing in for 3 months lol).
        Tbh, they both seem to have the same level of spam filtering. Tho, Yahoo’s account security is horrid. One of my junk emails has been brute forced over a dozen times and was sending spam emails out (sent folder is the only way I knew that) and I have an 18 character passwords setup and my recovery answers have nothing to do with the questions.
        While I like Gmail, I wish there were some more options to have, for like fall-back email accounts. Hushmail is good but it’s not a “known” one that others will recognize.

      2. All Things Firefox said on December 24, 2015 at 3:23 am

        When you sign out from Outlook/Hotmail, just close the MSN tab. Unless you want to visit, this isn’t a problem at all. Just close the browser tab and you don’t have to learn anything about Windows 10. “There is another way to exit but It is very annoying.” Closing a browser tab is pretty easy
        “MS MITM advertising ! :(” Do you think Microsoft should be banned from advertising on their own website? There is absolutely nothing wrong with Microsoft advertising Windows 10 on a Microsoft-owned site. I don’t know where you get the idea where this was caused by MITM adware.
        Seriously, do any of the commenters know what a real MITM attack is? The banned products are essentially installing a local proxy so that they can inject ads into webpages. From @tuna: “Huh! almost sounds like M$ is protecting THEIR MITM data and targeted ads from any competition. Lulz.” and “Huh! Does this mean Win 10 is banned or M$ is just protecting their MITM data and targeted ads from any competition? Lulz.” That doesn’t make any sense. What does “MITM data” even mean? Data gathered from conducting an man-in-the-middle attack? No Microsoft program, including GWX, does that. Period. Thus @jern’s and @Jason’s comments are completely off-base.
        Note, I’m not in any way defending Microsoft’s tactics to get users to upgrade to Windows 10. That’s a completely different discussion. But Microsoft does not conduct MITM attacks or distribute MITM adware.

      3. Graham said on December 23, 2015 at 7:49 pm

        I hope I don’t come off as condescending or rude, Gary, but I highly recommend switching to another Email service. No one today uses Hotmail as a serious address except for using them as decoy accounts (mainly for signing up for websites that may spam you). Its spam filters are so bad that most of the spam goes to the person’s inbox, anyway. I’d recommend moving to a service with better spam filters like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, or a secure offline app like Thunderbird or FossaMail. (You can import your contacts and old mail from Hotmail to those services, which is nice.)

  6. tuna said on December 22, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    Huh! Does this mean Win 10 is banned or M$ is just protecting their MITM data and targeted ads from any competition?

  7. tuna said on December 22, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Huh! almost sounds like M$ is protecting THEIR MITM data and targeted ads from any competition. Lulz.

    1. Jason said on December 22, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Bingo. ^_^ Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here.

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