How To: Stop Sleazeware

Sleazeware" is my term for spyware, adware, malware, trackware, foistware, trojans, and other programs that sleaze into your computer, either as a hidden component or by tricking you into downloading them. Once in your machine, the program phones home for purposes ranging from simply reporting where you browse to
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

Sleazeware" is my term for spyware, adware, malware, trackware, foistware, trojans, and other programs that sleaze into your computer, either as a hidden component or by tricking you into downloading them. Once in your machine, the program phones home for purposes ranging from simply reporting where you browse to downloading keyloggers. Keyloggers record keystrokes, including passwords and credit card numbers, and then send them to another computer. Here's how to stop sleazeware before it filthies your computer:

Only use pop-up blockers from reputable companies or Internet Service Providers. Google, Yahoo, Earthlink, and AOL have free blockers. Test your pop-up blocker thoroughly; www.kephyr.com/popupkillertest is a good test. Don't download a pop-up blocking program from an unknown source (e.g., coolfunkeenwebdoodles.com), or you may be downloading sleazeware.

Read the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA), any notes about the product on the download site, and any readme files downloaded with the program before installing it. SpyBan, a now infamous Trojan horse, made itself available through a very reputable download site which carefully posted an editor's note warning that SpyBan bundled other programs with it, including a notorious product called Look2Me. Look2Me's EULA reads, in part:

"I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THE SOFTWARE PRODUCT WILL MODIFY, REMOVE, AND ADD ENTRIES TO MY COMPUTER OPERATING SYSTEM, NETWORK PARAMETERS, AND OTHER INSTALLED FILES THAT WILL CHANGE THE PRIOR DEFAULT SETTINGS, AND/OR INSTALL SOFTWARE FROM THIRD PARTIES WITHOUT USER INTERVENTION, AND/OR INSTALL SOFTWARE TO DISPLAY ELECTRONIC ADVERTISEMENTS AND THIRD PARTY WEB PAGES OF EVERY KIND AND NATURE AND/OR MONITOR MY ACTIONS AND REPORT THEM TO THE COMPANY AND/OR UNDISCLOSED THIRD PARTIES, WITHOUT USER INTERVENTION."

Approving this EULA allows unprecedented privacy invasions and computer control. Just say "No!"

Avoid free software with cute names. "Cool," "fun," "better," "look," and "keen" are danger signs for sleazeware. If you're tempted to download free smilies or animated cursors, first do a Web search on the product name followed by a space and "spyware." Example: "coolfunkeenwebdoodles spyware."

If you know your computer is clean of sleaze, install SpywareBlaster. This free program prevents bad ActiveX controls from executing on your machine. ActiveX controls are a major source of sleazeware. An alternative to SpywareBlaster is turning your Internet Explorer security to high or disabling all ActiveX controls, but when I did that, I could no longer read Adobe Acrobat files (I got a blank screen). ActiveX serves helpful purposes in education, so filtering out bad controls is a better move. As with any program that uses a database, remember to look for updates about once a week.

Use the Windows Update button. Microsoft finally understands security. Updates to Windows and Internet Explorer are available, and Microsoft has recently released Windows XP Service Pack 2, which has a pop-up blocker and can make your computer's local zone more restrictive than the Internet zone, thus shutting down many malicious programs. Updates take a while to download over a dial-up connection, but you can order them on a CD for the cost of shipping from Microsoft. It's worth it. Today (12/28/04), SP2 blocked Open Site, spyware that has only one mention on Google.

You can stop sleazeware by researching before you download, reading the fine print, and doing what you do best-educating others. Pass this article on to friends, colleagues, and students.

Ben Reynolds is the senior program coordinator for distance education at the Center for Talented Youth, The Johns Hopkins University.

Featured

Related

How To: Stop Pop-Ups

Pop-ups — those advertising windows that pop up over or under other windows while we use the Internet — have become more and more ubiquitous as the Web has grown. For Macintosh computers, the Safari browser has pop-up blocking capability already included. But Internet Explorer, the most popular browser, does

How To: Basic Training

Parallels Workstation — An Alternative Parallel Workstation is a software product that approaches Windows on the Mac in a different manner. It creates what is called a virtual machine on the Mac (see the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_machine for a complete explanation of a

How To: Compress Your Files

As Seen on TV! Have you ever seen that late-night television ad for the Travel Genie, a device that claims to squeeze clothing together so tightly that you can fit two or three times more than normal into a suitcase? Well, the same idea is at work with file compression! What Is File Compression? File compression

How To: Create and Use Macros

How often do you find yourself typing the same information, such as your school name and address, into document after document? Or using the same sequence of menu commands, such as saving a file in a specific folder (File, Save, navigate to the folder, open the folder, save the file)? Would you rather use a short key

How To: Incorporate Multimedia into Documents

Want to jazz up your presentations and documents? Try using multimedia-a mixture of text, audio, video, graphics, and images. Most major computer-based tools support their use. For example, you can put video into a Word document, audio into Inspiration, and more. Why use multimedia in a document? Research studies

How To: Make Your Voice Heard!

A podcast is a method of distributing multimedia files, usually (but not limited to) audio in the MP3 format, over the Internet to subscribers. Anybody can be a subscriber — all you need is the proper software to receive the subscription, just like you need a mailbox to receive your magazine subscriptions. This

How To: Sort and Organize Your E-mail

Inbox overloaded? After signing up for all those e-mail lists (see last month's column, "How to Use an E-Mail List," at http://www.techlearning.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=18900792), what can you do to organize the messages you do keep? Folders: Create folders in your e-mail program. You can store your

How To Create Your Own Video-Sharing Site promo image

How To Create Your Own Video-Sharing Site

Flipping Out for Fliggo by Jen FarrI recently came across a Web 2.0 application that makes it easy to create your own customizable video sharing site in minutes. You can use Fliggo to build a class video blog, create a