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TUCoPS :: Spies! :: spywarev.txt

Spyware: The Evolution




Spyware: The Evolution
Wed Oct 09


In this article I will outline the definition of SpyWare, it's history,
it's original promise and it's present violation of our human rights. In
the past decade and a half the evolution and extreme need for software
has come at great cost, so it's predecessor shareware and freeware have
enabled countless uses to sample, enjoy and even decide to invest in
honest efficient software. From the mass explosion of the Internet came
the ability to spread such software at incredible speed; which was
unintended, therefore increasing the cost of software. Most of today's
shareware comes with ads, giving the programmer the ability to
distribute his or her program at the expense of an advertising company.
This newer development of ad-ware has caused an unprecedented increase
in gathering marketing information. The simplest way to gather marking
information was to have the actions of a user sent to a company to
analyze and sell.

What harm can a program do and what rights dose it violate by sending
back harmless information like what WebPages, music and or videos a
person is viewing, buying or sampling? Well to the multi-billion dollar
marking firms it's not unethical, it's good business! Which I cannot
deny, if I was going to sell you something like books, I would want to
see what books were the most popular and market that book to the
fullest. Amazon.com does do this, but with ethical treatment to it's
users. Amazon collects it's own information based on sales, their own
web page views and such, it even groups books so it can advertise these
groups to select users at discount. That's good business, because it's
doesn't take away my right to privacy, because it's using the resources
within it's company to compete rather than to steal my resources to take
advantage of me. SpyWare is an evolution of ad-ware because when a
program wants to take information from you, to send you back a sales
pitch, it violates your right to privacy.

SpyWare thrives on ignorance, people who don't want to read. Read what
you might ask? Install agreements, download instructions, legal
agreements, security updates, news and even web page instructions. The
most important questions are; what is SpyWare and how does it work? If
you are not clear on what SpyWare is let me clarify, it's a program that
you have installed on your computer that takes data based on your
actions ( actions meaning, web pages viewed, media played and such.) and
your stored files (like your music stored on your hard disk, or played
by removable disk.). I know some of you readers are thinking, so what?
As long as they're not hacking me or actually stealing my files then
what's wrong? What if someone walked into your house without your direct
permission and went through your house looking to find out what you
purchase. Then sent information to you in the mail about all these great
products you love, of course it sounds great but it's still my
individual right to my privacy. NO piece of paper or click of a buttons
takes away anyone's rights. Just because a person doesn't fully
understand his or her rights doesn't give a company the right to do
unethical business. That's where the government steps in and stops
companies from committing such crimes, but have they? No. Why, because
what are they stealing, only our unspoken privacy, a bunch of
information on our computes, hardly a hefty crime.

Now that you are staring to understand what SpyWare is and how it came
from ad-ware, you can again ask yourself how do I get these programs
that steal my information? Well, it's not that easy to explain because
there are so many levels in which we receive SpyWare. At our current
status the government does not stop companies from producing or
distributing this type of software, so you can get it with a $100 game
you just bought. But most commonly you get it through shareware or
freeware, why? Did you ever ask yourself why you're getting something
for free? Why a company built a program for example; Gator. Gator stores
all your online passwords for you, it's that convenient? This program
knows every web page you see and what level of access you have to this
web page because you store your online passwords with it, a time savor
if you will. Well this company is giving you software that helps you for
free, so why shouldn't it take that information about what you view
(again not taking any fiscal file from you) and send it to a company to
be marketed. You might ask yourself how stupid this all sounds, why
would a company care about what I like? Think about it, can you imagine
knowing what online book millions of people are buying? Then make an add
pop-up on everyone's computer that has some kind of SpyWare and offer
that book? It's all about the marketing. Again some of you are asking,
so what? I get that book I always wanted at a really competitive price,
yes but you've also given away your privacy and dignity. If this was
true and that's all they did then it wouldn't bug me about SpyWare, but
how do we know how much information they really have about us? I don't
want to be a number in a huge database because I've downloaded a program
that lets certain people see what I'm doing. That doesn't give me any
level of comfort excepting that they only take information based on what
I do. They could read your email, your files or even open up your
computer like a Trojan.

Before I start babbling I would like to clarify the ethics of this. A
person writes a program to collect business data but in the process it
violates a persons right to privacy. How does it violate a persons
right, because NO SpyWare program clearly asks a users permission to
accumulate data from him or her and as we know with any valid contract
the details must be very clear and knowledge to both parties. (You can't
put in fine print at the bottom of mortgage that a bank has the right to
go threw your house.) So how come a program can break that very law that
protects millions of people all over the world, yet not on the Internet?
Because most computer users are computer illiterate, they don't
understand what they're doing. The point of this article is too insure
that future users take more interest in what they do and more
importantly what they're computer does. How can a user do this?

1)/ Run a firewall. Firewalls monitor all traffic into and out of a
computer, allowing the user to control the information flowing out.
Except firewalls are somewhat complicated and not every user can use
one.

2) Download and run anti-SpyWare software like Ad-Aware

(www.ad-aware.com). Ad-Aware's free anti-SpyWare client finds and
notifies the user of the exploits of SpyWare on his or her computer.
Simple to install and very simple to use. It also auto updates it's file
so you stay on top of new SpyWare.

It's almost impossible to delete and keep clear of SpyWare without one
or both of the tools listed above. My first reason for this is some
software you are going to get in the future is going to be bundled with
SpyWare. (Example: Kaza, Windows Media XP etc..) My second reason is
that you can get SpyWare from viewing web pages because of most users
uncontrolled cookie acceptance. (Like a script or program on a web page
that downloads a program to your computer without you knowing it, WHICH
IS ILLEGAL!) How to stay ahead of the game, well first off read security
updates like HITB or most online news. KNOW your computer, it's like
your car; although you don't need to know everything about it you should
know how to protect yourself, like an alarm (firewall). Also like your
car your computer needs checkups, anti-virus and anti-SpyWare programs
MUST BE USED regularly. Well I hope you understand at least a little
about SpyWare from this article, until next month this is.



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