WelchWrite Notes - Spyware
Douglas E. Welch, The WelchWrite Company, Inc.
818-781-6955 | douglas@welchwrite.com | www.welchwrite.com

Spyware effects more than just you

(Links in the article below indicate further information or definitions - DEW)

Those of you who have known me for a while have surely heard my standard harangue about keeping your computer free of viruses and Spyware.

Spyware programs are those nasty “Trojan Horse” programs that get installed on your machine in a number of ways. They often masquerade as interesting or fun programs. In fact, they often perform some useful task, but in the background they could be performing any number of nasty procedures. It can cause pop-up windows to appear, track your web browsing, slow your machine to a crawl or worse.

It is the “or worse” that should concern you. One of the most insidious features of some Spyware is to turn your machine into a zombie. That term probably calls up visions of Night of the Living Dead and that comparison is an apt one. Once infected by one of these programs, your computer can be “taken over” and controlled by a spammer or hacker and used to perpetrate attacks on other computers all over the world. Even worse, these Spyware purveyors are not just using these zombies for their own purposes, but selling these networks of zombies to others.

According to TechDirt.com, “USA Today is running a series of articles about various "bad things" happening on the internet, from spyware to phishing attacks to zombies, and one of the sidebar items looks more closely at the zombie problem, suggesting a network of 20,000 zombie machines can be leased for $2,000 to $3,000.” (How much for a network of zombies, TechDirt.Com, Septmber 8, 2004)

So, if you decide to ignore the threat of viruses and Spyware, you aren’t just effecting yourself, you are potentially effecting everyone else on the Internet. Wow, who would’ve thought it! This escalation of the Spyware game really behooves all of us to be more aware of the problem. It is bad enough when Spyware messes up our own machines, but if your machine is turned into a zombie and starts spewing SPAM or attacking other computers, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) could end up turning off your Internet connection and blaming you for the attack.

It is fairly easy to protect yourself from Spyware and viruses, even if it does cost a few dollars. While anti-virus programs are commercial items, available from your local retailer, either online or storefront, anti-spyware items are free for non-commercial use. That means that if you are using them for your home computers, you don’t have to pay a dime. Of course, you might want to purchase the program to get additional features, or donate a few pennies to help the developer produce the next version of the program.

As you may have noticed, Spyware and viruses are more prevalent on Windows computers than Macintosh. This is NOT to say that Macs are immune, only that they are less of a target for a number of reasons. There are fewer Macs in the world, so infecting them has less of an effect, and Microsoft’s integration of Internet features into Windows has led to some dramatic security flaws which has made it easier to infect. I have seen and dealt with Mac viriuses in the past, so I still recommend an anti-virus program as protection against past viruses and any new ones that might come along.

Keep your machine free of Spyware and viruses not only as a service to yourself, but everyone else enjoying the benefits of the Internet around the world.

Here are my recommendations for anti-virus and anti-spyware products.

Ad-Aware (Windows)
Spybot (Windows)

coverWindows cover Macintosh

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