Safe Surfing

As you may or may not know, there is a lot of questionable content on the internet. And I mean a lot more than just porn. If you are a person of a reasonably sound mind, you probably have some sort of Anti-Virus software loaded on your computer. You probably also regularly download updates to your virus software and so you sit calmly at your computer assured of your invulnerability to evildoers on the internet. You may be less secure than you think. Another form of software, one that anti-virus software will not detect because it doesn't self-replicate, is malware or spyware. These are little programs with little or no graphical interface, and they can bind themselves to your internet browser so they won't even show up in the Task Manager. Some are written in Java and can run on non-windows platforms. Most of these little bugs have been created by marketing and advertising companies to track surfing habits, pop-up offers or ads (very annoying), and monitor hits on various websites. Some of these malware have even more sinister intentions; they can open ports to your machine that allow it to be remote controlled, they can watch for credit card numbers or passwords and send them to unknown persons, some of them can even allow other complex processing jobs to be executed on your machine when you are not using it (similar to SETI@home, but without your knowledge).

So what do you do about these non-virus baddies? There are several solutions out there. Some are freeware, some cost money, and in fact, some are just malware themselves. Consider SRC Technologies in Hilliard Ohio. They make a product called SpyBouncer that claims to remove malware and spyware from your system. You can even scan your system online , but you have to pay to have the found items removed. The interesting thing is that under a parent company called Stingware, SRC Tech. also produces a program called Keylogger. This crafty little tool will run hidden on a computer and log every key that is pressed on the keyboard to a file. This file can be retrieved and searched for passwords and other sensitive information. The thing that I find questionable about this is that Keylogger does the same things as many of the spyware/malware programs that Spybouncer claims to find and remove. Ethically, I think there is a problem with inventing a disease and then selling the cure. Today I emailed the sales team at Spybouncer to see if it can detect and remove Keylogger. I will post the response when I receive it.

So what to do? Like I said, there are several solutions out there, the best listing and reviews of their various pros and cons I've found is at Plus, I also enjoy Latin, and their name can be loosely translated as "There is no accounting for taste or color". Currently I use Spybot Search & Destroy and I have donated to his cause via PayPal and I recommend the same. Spybot SD provides very detailed listings of each item it finds, including what the malware does, and sometimes links to the creator's privacy statements online. Plus it gives you the ability to un-fix malware in the event that removing it has broken something useful to you. Thus endith my two cents...

-This just in- I've been quoted by the author of the NonDisputadem website! Check it out here. -Kelly 5/17/2004