Information about Tonclank was first published by Xuxian Jiang, an assistant professor in computer science at North Carolina State University, whose team named the code "Plankton" and used the term "botnet" to describe it.
"We thought it was spyware, but then we decided it was a prototype ad network that crosses the line into spyware," said Wyatt. "Since then, [the ad network] has pulled back from that."
"We have been looking at exactly this type of behavior," added Derek Halliday, a Lookout senior security product manager, referring to Counterclank. "We understand that this type of behavior can be confusing to the average user, but Symantec is inflating that confusion with messages that it's malware."
Wyatt, too, was firm in his belief that apps containing Counterclank are not malicious.
"This does raise questions about what's acceptable behavior for apps, but I think it's fair to say that [these apps] aren't exhibiting any maliciousness," Wyatt said. "If you do, you're getting ahead of yourself."
Both Wyatt and Halliday said that Lookout's investigation into Counterclank-using apps is ongoing, and they promised the company would issue a report on them in the upcoming weeks.
Google declined to comment on Symantec's claims and Lookout's rebuttal.
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