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Carpenter Computer Service
423 Highway 110 E. Suite #D
Heber Springs, Ar 72543
(501) 362-1762
ccs@carpenter-inc.com
                                         

 

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Spy-ware vs. Viruses

What is spy-ware?

Spy-ware is either a program or other tracking feature that is deposited on your computer from a web site that you visit. This spy-ware can be in the form of a program that will run on your computer in the background. Or the Spy ware can be something as simple as a cookie that is left from the web site.

What is a cookie?

A cookie is the common name for a web site information record file. Many web sites, in fact most web sites use cookies in the effort to make your viewing of a web site pleasurable. Cookies have a useful purpose on the internet, and are most beneficial when you are doing your on-line shopping. As you brows through the multitude of items, you choose what you want, and add it to your “Basket” or Shopping Cart”

When you go to the grocery store, you go up and down the aisles as you find the items on your list. After you're done, everything is in your shopping buggy. In this example, on the internet web site, you could have and probably did use 2 cookies. One cookie would have kept track of where you have been; for example, you went up and down each aisle. In real life, this cookie is in your own brain, and you know where you have been. The second cookie would be a list of everything that you removed from the shelves and placed into your buggy.

When you're on-line shopping, these cookies are vital to place an order. As you head to the checkout at the web site, the site will look at the cookies on your computer, and read the items that you have placed into your shopping cart. You then check out and you're on your way.

These are examples of good cookies. Bad cookies are the ones that come from advertisers. Well they are not really so bad, but more of an annoyance.

Let's say that AJAX advertising does a lot of advertising on many internet sites, ranging from shoe stores, to clothing stores, to arts and crafts, to even the occasional adult web site. When you go to a web sit that has one of AJAX's banner displays, The AJAX web site will look to see if it has one of it's cookies on your computer. If it doesn't detect one, the AJAX ad company will deposit one on your computer and in the file, it will record the site that you received the cookie from. As you continue your browsing from ABC clothing outlet, you go to Jane's homemade crafts. Jane has a contract with AJAX Advertising that states, whenever someone clicks on the advertisement on her web page, AJAX will give her $0.25 to pay for the advertising space. Further more, The AJAX banner will look at your computer to again see if you have an AJAX cookie. IF you have one, it will read the information from the cookie, and then record the site that you were just at as well. As time goes on, the AJAX cookie will contain a list of all the web sites that you have visited that contains an AJAX ad. AJAX now will have a good idea of what sort of items you are looking at when you surf the internet, and with their web sites, they will send a call for a pop up window, in which they will direct advertising aimed directly at you, based on your browsing habits as recorded in the cookie.

The program!

There are a lot of people who use the computer for things other than business purposes. I estimate , this would be about 99.999% of computer users. Many of these people will go to a web site to play games, like Pogo or Slingo, or even gamble with real money at the multitude of on-line casinos. Quite often these sites will require you to download an active-X controller or some other software, and install it for proper functioning of the games. I will not give you a percentage of legitimate verses illegitimate sites, because I do not know. Lets just safely say that some of these game rooms are not there just to allow you to play games, They are there to gather information about you and about your web surfing activities.

Beware of the EULA!!!!!

The EULA is the acronym for E nd U ser L icense A greement. In other words, it is a fancy term for “Fine Print.” I cannot stress enough the importance of reading the EUAL. Look for terms that say “In agreeing to these terms, you allow us to install software onto your compute for the purposes of recording your web site history and transmitting it to our computers for the purpose of customizing pop-up advertisements for your enjoyment” or words to that effect. If you agree, to something such as this or similar phrases, the nightmare will begin.

The Results are in

You have gone to the on-line casino and gambled your real money and you have one $15.00 for your efforts. Congratulations! Now watch as your computer slows down, and your internet does not seem to communicate as fast as it once did. Are you on dial-up? Are you wondering why it now takes your home page 5 minutes to load, instead of the 30 seconds it took 3 weeks ago? The problem is this spy-ware that you allowed on your computer. These programs do not care about your fun or whether you wish to read your e-mail in less than 60 seconds. Their sole purpose is to go beyond the cookie and track ALL of your internet activity, and can even record keystrokes, to gather usernames and passwords to sites that you may frequent. These programs even go further by recording what software you have installed on your computer, copy your e-mail address, and addresses in your address book. These too will be sent out to the company that installed the software onto your computer. Would you look at that, Not only is it taking forever to download your e-mail, but now you have dozens of junk e-mail or SPAM. Where did those come from? In this case, they paid you $15.00 to be allowed to do this to you and your computer.

The Bottom Line on spy-ware

If you find that your computer is running very slowly and your virus scan is up to date, you probably have spy-ware on your computer. This needs to be cleaned off as soon as possible.

Typical Spy-Ware

Here is a list of known windows to spy-ware, and I recommend that you avoid these at all costs

  • Kazaa
  • Bargain Buddy
  • IWon
  • Bonzi Buddy
  • 180Solutions
  • Doubleclick
  • USaveSolutions
  • SavnigsNOW

And the list goes on, If you know how to use windows explorer, to look through the folders on your computer, go to “program files” and see if you have any of these or similar sounding named listed in the folders there.

Viruses

Viruses are more commonly heard of, but probably a whole lot less prevalent that Spy-Ware. Viruses are malicious programs that are either downloaded as an attachment to an e-mail or installed directly onto your computer from certain web sites.

The general purpose of a virus is to cause damage, either to your computer, or to use your computer to cause damage to others. This damage could be done by causing an overload of e-mails directed at a computer company on a trigger date, or by performing what is called a Denial of Service, by clogging the internet lines with spontaneously generated web traffic.

How many of you have ever received an e-mail from Mailer Daemon address unknown, or rejected because of a virus the e-mail had, and you scratched your head, wondering who the addressee was and more importantly why was there a virus coming from your computer, You have the best Anti-Virus on the Market, You keep your definitions up to date, and you religiously scan your computer for viruses every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. How could there be a virus from your computer? The chances are that you do not have a virus. This should be good news to you. The bad news is that someone who you know has a virus on their computer.

In most cases, a virus will not attach itself to an e-mail that is specifically sent to you from a friend or relative, even if they are infected. Virus programmers are not stupid. They are very clever, and seek to cause the most damage possible with their virus. If Jane has the virus, and sends an e-mail to Robin, and Robin's computer detects the virus, Robin will notify Jane, and let her know that she has a Virus, and it will soon be cleaned off her computer.

What a virus WILL do is, while you're connected to the internet, it will open your address book, and pick a name at random. It will then take all the other addresses, and create a mass mailing e-mail and send it out through what is called a ‘mail server' of its own. It will use the name it selected randomly, and use that as the FROM address, and send to everyone else in Jane's address book. Other viruses will simply borrow a FROM name and randomly generate hundreds or thousands of random e-mail addresses, in the hopes that some will reach a person who will open the e-mail and become infected. Now, robin begins to see returned e-mail because the virus borrowed his e-mail address from Jane's Address book. This way, no one knows that Jane is the one infected.

Back to Spy-ware vs. Viruses

By now you should have a good idea of the difference between spy-ware and viruses. One the one hand Spy-ware, is just a nuisance, on the other, Viruses are destructive, and illegal. The major difference to you is that You allow, Spy-ware to be placed on your computer by visiting risky web sites or agreeing to a EULA without reading it. Viruses are placed there against your will.

This is one of the reasons why the Anti Virus companies do not scan and intercept much of the Spy-Ware, because it must be agreed by you to allow it to be placed on your computer by you. In recent versions of some of the major name VS companies, they will now actively scan and show you files that you may not want on your computer, because they are spy-ware.

Recommendations

  • 1) Get a good Virus Scan Program,
  • a. Keep your virus definitions up to date
  • b. Scan your computer regularly for viruses
  • 2) Get a good Anti-Spy-ware program
  • a. Again, keep your definitions up to date
  • b. Scan your computer regularly

A quick note about Anti-Spy-Ware There is some good free scanners and there are some good bought scanners. The major difference is that one that you purchase, will usually actively scan incoming files to determine if it is spy-ware, and ask you to verify whether you want it or not. Free ones usually do not have an active scan, to intercept the files, they just scan and cleanup afterwards

 

 

Our articles:

6/29/2006 Do I Need More Memory?

12/14/2004 Internet Security

12/5/2004 Spy-Ware VS Viruses

 

 
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Carpenter Computer Service
423 Highway 110 E. Suite #D
Heber Springs, Ar 72543
(501) 362-1762
ccs@carpenter-inc.com