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Spyware

Cornelis Robat, editor THOCP

 

more on Spam see also: Spam

Timeline of Spyware

 

2005

Jan 1 - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger legislated a new law against spyware effective per 1 Jan 2005. Though the USA Congress debated on four law proposals California is them one step ahead.

The Consumer Protection Against Spyware Act forbids installation of software that (partly) takes over control of your computer. Companies (and web sites) exploiting such software are now ordered to publish the fact if their software installs spyware. Citizens that are affected with spyware on their computer can now claim a 1000 US Dollar damage from the company that installed the spyware. Though receiving the money will be difficult however the companies are known the owners or people behind it stay in the murk. And the wording of this act is such that it will be hard to prosecute the perpetrator.

 

 

What is Spyware

Definitions from various glossaries on the web:

A general term for a program that surreptitiously monitors your actions. While they are sometimes sinister, like a remote control program used by a hacker, software companies have been known to use spyware to gather data about customers. The practice is generally frowned upon.(1)

A technology that assists in gathering information about a person or organization without their knowledge. On the Internet, "spyware is programming that is put in someone's computer to secretly gather information about the user and relay it to advertisers or other interested parties." As such, spyware is cause for public concern about privacy on the Internet.(2)

This is also known as "ad ware". It is a hidden software program that transmits user information via the Internet to advertisers in exchange for free downloaded software. The Specialty Alliance Corporation™ does NOT use Spyware in any form or fashion, or will do business with companies that do.(3)

There are concerns that some Web sites and commercial organizations track users' online activity through the use of what is called ‘spyware'. Usually coming in the form of ‘cookies' - these enable the cookie writer to build-up information about what you do and where you go on the Web. Software is available that checks for and removes spyware.(4)

Software that tracks usage and reports it to others, such as advertisers Usually the tracking is concealed from the user of the software.(5)

Spyware often gets installed without the user realizing what they're installing.

 

Concerns

Do we have to be concerned about spyware?

Yes by all means.

It often means a security breach to our carefully guarded private information that we do not want to share with anybody, at least not voluntarily.

Your business data can be compromised and your email can be scanned on contents that your competitor has no need to know about. It literally is a spy component on you computer. It tells "them" all you do from email to typing stuff to passwords and what sites you look at, yes particularly these adult sites. If that does not damage your privacy I don't know.

Besides spyware is sometimes so hyper active on your computer that it "hangs" it up.

The process of spyware is known to sometimes demand almost 99% of your computer's capacity. And an accident never comes alone. So does this spyware. If your 'e infected most probably there are some sisters and brothers from other companies active on your system. Together they eat up your processor's power. What the use of hanging up your system is I honestly don't know. Since when your system is hijacked in that way you do nothing and thus there is no new stuff to report anymore. And what's the use of that I wonder.

More than enough reasons to fight this spyware by all means, legislative and by installing anti spyware.

 

How do you get it

 

It all started with companies hoping to pay for their development costs by showing (unwanted) commercials on you screen. It then "entartet" into another pestilence on the net by companies that see it as another vehicle to intrude on your computer for spawning advertisements on your screen and thus making a pile of money. Inmoral, no not precisely. Unlawfull? Not yet. But certainly a nuisance that is costing society a lot of money through the waste of energy, and loss of cpu cycles (computertime).


What can we do against it

Install anti spyware software or detection software and scan, depending on your web activities daily to weekly. Best practice is to put the scanner in a schedule on your machine, just like a virus scanner, and have it start your scanner every day. Some spyware scanners run in the back ground but need to be updated daily, often by hand or sometimes, as some commercial packages offer, scheduled for once a day.

What are the best scanners? In a test for scanners it appeared that the freeware scanners are at least as good if not better as any commercial package. But that can change overnight of course. According to PCWorld in their jan 2005 issue commercial packages even install spyware on their own, by all means!

Most of the spyware can be stopped at the gates.

Making laws against spyware.

However, internet companies are lobbying hard against the bill, saying that the definition of spyware is way too broad and would end up banning plenty of things that should remain perfectly legal. Sometimes, users want to use a product that might be considered spyware, but they should at least be in a better position to understand what it's doing with their data and be given more control to turn it off if they no longer want it.

 

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Last Updated on January 5, 2005 For suggestions please mail the editor in chief 

 



Footnotes & References