We reported back in February that FlightSimLabs ("FSL") had been caught by Reddit users installing spyware on its customers' computers in a strange attempt to catch a pirate. You can read that article here.
It has now come to light that FSL hasn't learned its lesson. Late last week Reddit user Walkday reported finding another anomaly in the installation of his or her A320X sim module. Walkday wrote "The latest installer of FSLabs' A320X puts two cmdhost.exe files under 'system32\' and 'SysWOW64\' of my Windows Directory".
For those not aware, "cmdhost.exe" is the name given to executable Windows system files critical to the safe operation of the Windows operating systems. As such they are always deemed to be safe and critical to the operation of the system, and users are advised never to delete them. This makes it a very devious place to hide spyware, as a user is highly unlikely to either notice or remove it.
Reddit's other users were quick to point out the unethical and sneaky tactic, and before long news of the issue was spreading to other platforms. FSL were quick to put out a statement, explaining that the "cmdhost is part of our eSellerate infrastructure….", and that it had been checked by all major anti-virus companies to ensure its cleanliness.
Whatever spin FSL were trying to sell, fans were not buying it. FSL have made some strange PR decisions over this issue, and there followed another. In a private message to the moderators of the /r/flightsim sub-Reddit, Simon Kelsey (the Marketing and PR manager for FSL) suggested that if the thread about FSL's latest indiscretion was not removed, legal action may follow.
Kelsey went so far as to suggest the Reddit communities' comments were libellous or defamatory, and that he would "hate for lawyers to have to get involved". The moderators did not comply, and Kelsey wrote once again this time with an ultimatum: remove the thread or the issue will be past to FSL's legal team.
The moderators' replied with an open letter (that you can read in full here) explaining that while FSL may censor its own forums, it may not do so on an open internet platform such as Reddit. The response also suggests that FSL itself has breached Reddit's terms of service by registering accounts to attack users critical of FSL. The response confirmed that further FSL communications should be sent to the Reddit admin team directly.
It is unclear whether this issue will actually end with litigation, but what is sure is that FSL seems to be blundering from one PR catastrophe to another.
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