Spyware A Scourge For Ages

spyware234Spyware can be a real pain in the neck.  As a computer user you have to protect your personal data.  It’s very important to stay up to date on the latest in terms of new spyware, adware, and virus development.  Using proper software to protect your system such as Spyhunter 4 which is a great way to ensure that you’re not going to get left out in the dark and have your computer ransacked by some crazy adware (hey, it happened to me, and I’m a seasoned computer user!).  As always, keep up to date on the latest in terms of malware protection by visiting security blogs such as We Hate Malware and Wired.

Here’s an excerpt from an older article, just to give a bit of history on the spyware war and how it’s been a problem for years.

Spy vs. Spy

Like any good undercover agent spyware has managed to quietly invade just about every computer out there in some form. It is a testament to the efficiency of these programs that they have pretty much stayed under the general public’s radar by “fellowtraveling” on seemingly innocent parent applications.

No matter how hard the people who plant these sniffers try to rationalize the use of this type of approach to pigeonholing the public, the fact remains that they have invaded your personal space without your personal permission. They are more than “super cookies” and can be configured to return much more than their relatively benign cookie cousins. There is no limit to what these programs can send back to their handlers, and, until recently, most people simply were not aware of the depth of penetration into their systems. There is probably a little cluster of uninvited foreign agents right now stashed away in blind folders on your system sending God knows what back to God knows whom. The good news is that this is one problem you can deal with. The tool is simple and it’s free. Ad-aware 5.62 is available from Lavasoft [http://www.lsfileserv.com] and all the usual large download sites.

Ad-aware scans your memory, hard drives, arid Registry; for software plants from Alexa (through 5.0), Aureate (1.0, 2.0, and 3.0), Comet Cursor (through 3.0), Cydoor, Doubleclick, DSSAgent, EzUla, Expedioware, EverAd, Flyswat, Gator, Gratisware, HotBar, OnFlow, TimeSink (through 5.0), Transponder, Web3000, Webhancer. You can update your coverage periodically by downloading additional lists from LavaSoft.

Ad-aware displays a list of detected spyware elements, files, folders, and Registry keys. You can then selectively remove them from your system. When I ran Ad-aware on my computer, I was fascinated by some of the names of the files unearthed. Most of them were completely removed from any reference to their function, but a few showed at least a small sense of humor. My favorites were “stealthinstall.exe” and “cheaphooker.exe.” I could never figure out where the files originated but I do know where they went.

The only problem may be the host program may not function properly after you remove the spyware. There is a backup function available on Adaware; use it. Glean your system, poke around for a while, then take the big step if everything seems stable. Run Ad-aware frequently — it’s fast and very simple. And it’s kind of fascinating watching old friends re-emerge from the shadows.

Pow — Slight Return

A couple of issues ago, I reviewed a small and elegant program from AnalogX [AnalogX.com] called Pow [“Tools of the Trade, Swinging the Big Bat: Power Versus Technology,” Searcher Magazine, October 2001]. This program is another tool designed to combat the flood of unwanted (expletive deleted) material screaming down the data pipe. Pow catches the latest cockroach mutation known in the trade as pop-under ads. Pop-unders are the stack of junk cluttering up your desk after you close your browser. You can take control of those pop-unders, and pop-overs for that matter, with this little (214k) download. It can sit in your system tray at boot or get called in for a specific Web romp. It’s free, it works, do it now.

Even Paranoids Have Real Enemies

If you use a personal computer, you have already compromised your privacy; For that matter, if you use a supermarket club card, somebody somewhere can tell you everything you ate this week. Your phone company knows everyone you talked to. If you walk into a mall, you are on camera and someone is probably staring over your shoulder the entire time you shop. Our society is busy trading privacy for convenience or security with no end in sight. We are all busy compromising, but we don’t have to like it. The real problem isn’t lack of legislation, it’s the profit factor. As long as there is profit in them, marketing techniques will flourish. The mass-marketing deluge of spain may, ironically, drown this potential market also.”

Rensberger, Dave. “We are not alone: Spain and spyware. (Tools of the Trade).” Searcher Apr. 2002: 20+.

Linux As An Early Workstation

earlylinuxworkstationsLinux was a forerunner of modern PC workstations.  Here is a great excerpt from an article written in 1996 – it’s always interesting to take a walk down memory lane when it comes to computers, especially because things change so quickly.

“Initially PCs and workstations represented entirely independent operating points in the price-performance spectrum. PC vendors emphasized low customer price at the expense of performance, capacity, and functionality.

Workstations could easily cost five to ten times as much but provided a rich user graphical user interface-based environment with sufficient performance to engage in meaningful computation. PCs were oriented to turnkey, independent software vendor (ISV) applications, while workstations, in contrast, incorporated a full applications programming interface, usually based on Unix. PC processors, initially 16-bit architectures, were relatively slow and combined with small main memory and limited secondary storage.

Workstations, on the other hand, were almost exclusively 32-bit architectures with at least 8MB of memory and built-in hard drives. While the early PC operating, systems generally were simple, supporting one program at a time, workstations mining Unix were full virtual memory multitasking systems from the beginning.

Today, the majority of both PCs and workstations are based on 32-bit microprocessor architectures. Workstation clock speeds range from more than 60MHZ to more than of 200MHZ with PC clock speeds falling about halfway between. In fact, PC microprocessor manufacturing technology, is comparable to that employed for workstation processor fabrication with equivalent lithographic size and transistor count. PCs and workstations now vise the same main memory modules, although workstations tend to have substantially, more.

Two of the most remarkable trends are in the areas of disk drives and backplanes. Commodity hard drives for PCs have a capacity of 1.6GB at a cost below $300, a price that continues to drop. In backplane technologies used to connect the subsystems of a PC or workstation together, the current generation PC bus, peripheral component interface (PCI), not only performs as well as many of its workstation counterparts, it is being adopted by many workstation vendors as a common interface standard. For graphics — an area in which workstations excel — major advances have been made on the commodity front as well. The consumer video game market is during graphic technology development. While the characteristics of the current high-end workstations are superior to contemporary PCs, the low end of the workstation product line is being squeezed by the capabilities and low cost of PCs.

In spite of the closing gap of PC and workstation hardware, a separation between the two classes of machines would continue to exist if the software environments remained independent. But two trends in software have all but eliminated this distinction as well. The most widely used operating system, which has been the hallmark of PCs for many years, provides a stable target for ISV application development and is evolving to incorporate many of the characteristics of the workstation environments. Perhaps more importantly, various versions of Unix, both commercial and public domain, have been developed for PC hardware platforms providing robust and industrial-grade capabilities once found only on workstations. Linux is one of the most widely distributed examples, providing complete X-window interfaces and all programming tools routinely available on workstations.

If anything, the convergence of software has outpaced that of hardware between PCs and workstations. Already, PCs running the Linux operating system are showing up on graduate students’ desks around the country as a low-cost alternative to once-conventional workstations.”

Sterling, Thomas. “The scientific workstation of the future may be a pile of PCs.” Communications of the ACM Sept. 1996: 11+.