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Your computer may not be as secure as you think, thanks to 'spyware'
Stars and Stripes ^ | October 29, 2002 | Rick Chernitzer

Posted on 10/28/2002 7:12:41 PM PST by Nachum

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Spies could be lurking through the corridors of your computer, taking note of what you type, where you surf and with whom you talk online.

They could be reporting this information to numerous companies and individuals, amassing huge secret files about you and your family.

And possibly the most galling thing about this is that you may have given them permission to be there.

“Spyware,” as they’re called in computer jargon, are tiny programs that bury themselves deep in the recesses of your computer, not taking up much space but playing Big Brother to everything you do online.

Kevin Monis, a network administrator at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, said these programs, supposedly used for market research, can be utilized for darker purposes.

“The potential is there,” he said. “From the standpoint of a terrorist looking for information, if they were able to easily break into something, they could see what measures the base is taking to respond to a specific attack.

“If you disrupt the base communications … while at the same time maybe physically attacking the base, it could just be a catastrophe.”

Monis said the base network takes “very strong protective measures” to ward off such intrusive programs. He declined to specify but said the measures are “along the lines of what every company should be doing.”

But for the most part, Monis said, programmers tend to be more interested in information they can market to others, selling it to companies that have interest in your Web-surfing habits.

“I call it dishonest,” he said. “You think you’re getting this, but in reality, you’re getting that and some other things you didn’t want.”

Spyware’s advent really took hold when computer users began demanding more from Internet sites they visited, Monis said.

“The users have demanded whiz-bang interfaces … nice gee-whiz kind of screens like you might see on CNN.com … people want to see real-time information on their screens,” he said.

Among the easiest ways to do this is to create programs that interact with the Web browser or software that allows users to access the Internet.

Programs are downloaded that tell the browser what to do. They also can instruct other parts of your computer to do things, such as keep a log of your keystrokes, access records of Web sites you’ve visited and send that information through your modem or other Internet connection to specific Web sites.

“So I give permission for this program to be installed, but I didn’t read the fine print where it says I said it was OK to track my demographics,” he said.

The programs also use your Internet connection to transmit the information back to whomever is asking for it. This transfer takes up your bandwidth, which can slow Internet access.

“That’s the most insulting part of it,” Monis said.

He said it doesn’t usually happen on computers with network firewalls, which restrict access by allowing only certain information to pass and only through particular portals, or electronic routes that allow access, either to Web sites or individual computers.

“You got a much better situation when you’re behind the firewall,” Monis added.

But breaching a firewall does happen occasionally, he admitted, adding that many computer users are unaware of the dangers these programs can present.

“The average person takes no precautions whatsoever,” he said. “They don’t know there are ways to protect themselves against some forms of these programs.”

The simplest is to adjust your browser’s security level, he said: “When you go to the Web sites that have this type of spyware, because your security is closed tighter, it won’t be able to get into your computer.”

Another defense mechanism, if you use high-speed access such as DSL, is a network router, Monis said. It masks your computer’s “IP address,” an identifying number every computer must have to be recognized and allowed to connect to the Internet.

“It’s not foolproof but far and away one of the easiest ways to cut down your exposure to malicious attack,” he said.

Users also can delete the tiny bits of information some sites leave on your computer to remember you, called “cookies.”

On the surface, they are very convenient, Monis admits: They remember certain settings, or your name, thus speeding time needed to get what you want from the site — but the information also could be used to target you.

“I’m guilty of it myself … I hate like heck to dump my cookies, even though it’s a good idea to dump them every one or two weeks,” he said.

“If people used just a little bit of caution, they wouldn’t have all these problems,” he added. “There are lots of bright people out there who are trying to crash through your front door.”


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: spyware
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To: jenny65; martin_fierro; RebelTex
Thank YOU ALL.....very helpful.
51 posted on 10/28/2002 9:17:18 PM PST by goodnesswins
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To: martin_fierro; All
Remove Spyware with AdAware

And make sure you install the Ref Update program to go with it to get updates to the signature file. New spyware comes out everyday...just like viruses. Without an updated signature file, you're not getting Zestfully clean!

52 posted on 10/28/2002 9:19:59 PM PST by Bloody Sam Roberts
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To: FreedomPoster
Often running Zonealarm (it's been a little flakey under XP - anyone have anything better?)

What version of ZA are you running? I have a copy of ZA version 2.1.44 that might help. I've heard that earlier versions of ZA run better on ME and XP than newer versions. If you want to download it I can put it on my server for you.

53 posted on 10/28/2002 9:25:05 PM PST by Bloody Sam Roberts
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To: goodnesswins
I have a HARDWIRED firewall and router....do I really need Adware?

Yes. A firewall will do nothing to stop spyware. A firewall is for port control only. Spyware comes in with regularly allowed traffic. Get it and run it. Win 98 won't care. You'll be fine.

54 posted on 10/28/2002 9:29:17 PM PST by Bloody Sam Roberts
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To: martin_fierro
but try Mailwasher.

Wow. You and I must be config'd almost identically. I use Mailwasher all the time and love it. I don't open the mail client unless I've run Mailwasher.

55 posted on 10/28/2002 9:33:21 PM PST by Bloody Sam Roberts
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To: FlyVet
Of course, you're right. Spyware should be illegal. That's why lavasoft created their Ad Aware program & gives it away. They don't like it either & are doing something about it.

Steve Gibson, whose website is http://grc.com , is a great source of info on how to counteract privacy invading software & protecting your system.

These folks & others are working to help make the internet safer & more enjoyable. However, everyone is ultimately responsible for learning all they can about managing, maintaining, & protecting their own systems - then following through with proper actions.

Have fun but stay safe. Happy surfing.

FReegards,
RebelTex
56 posted on 10/28/2002 9:53:22 PM PST by RebelTex
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To: RebelTex
Thanks, I've known of grc.com for a few years and also have run ZA for several years. The self-tests at GRC are quite eye-opening. The more people that are aware, the better. BUMP.
57 posted on 10/28/2002 10:08:32 PM PST by FlyVet
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To: FlyVet
I assume you allow NO cookies onto your machine.

Usually, I don't. I make exceptions for sites I really, really want to get information from, like FreeRepublic. I never run Java or Javascript off of web sites. Nor do I tend to run any software that I don't have in source.

58 posted on 10/28/2002 10:16:30 PM PST by altair
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To: altair
Good enough. Do you run AdAware, and if you do, do you never find unwanted cookies on your machine? My only point was that I shouldn't have to put up with spyware from unwanted sources. I don't invite it, so it shouldn't be legal for them to stick it on my computer. I have the same opinion about junk mail (except for local sales papers), telemarketing, and spam. I didn't ask for it, don't send it to me. If I am looking for ads, I'll look for it myself, either in the local newspaper or the internet or my telephone. Injecting spyware onto my computer is BS.
59 posted on 10/28/2002 10:32:52 PM PST by FlyVet
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To: FlyVet
Do you run AdAware

No.

Injecting spyware onto my computer is BS.

True, but it sounds like you have a perfectly acceptable technological solution to the problem. Do you really need politicians involved?

60 posted on 10/28/2002 10:53:52 PM PST by altair
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To: Nachum
bump
61 posted on 10/28/2002 11:11:10 PM PST by quietolong
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To: altair
Do you really need politicians involved?

Don't like that idea either, except to enforce or repeal existing laws. I wonder if Privacy Act covers this and will have to check into it when I'm more awake. Interesting, your flag. You never know where Freepers come from.

62 posted on 10/28/2002 11:11:43 PM PST by FlyVet
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To: FlyVet
Don't like that idea either, except to enforce or repeal existing laws.

Existing laws aren't very enforceable. I'm a legal resident of California which has a pretty tough anti-spam law. However, my non-work permanent email address points to a mailbox on a computer in Virginia, and all of my email ultimately lands on a computer in Japan. Am I covered by California's anti-spam law that makes it illegal to send spam to Californians? Probably, but I'm sure not going to fly to a court to insist upon my rights and not when I can procmail it away to oblivion.

Technological problems require technological solutions, not legal ones.

Interesting, your flag. You never know where Freepers come from.

There are FReepers all over the world. It's more fun that way. :-)

63 posted on 10/29/2002 12:04:27 AM PST by altair
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To: altair
Am I covered by California's anti-spam law that makes it illegal to send spam to Californians? Probably, but I'm sure not going to fly to a court to insist upon my rights and not when I can procmail it away to oblivion.

I wasn't planning on flying to a court either. Spyware is just an annoyance that shouldn't exist, unless invited. I'll continue to delete their crap every day, even though I didn't ask for their crap. For instance, "they" know I spend too much time surfing the Free Republic, so therefore, I must be a beer-gutted, assault-rifle-owning, redneck white boy with an NRA sticker on the back window of my white van or box truck....know what I mean, Verne?

Try AdAware on your machine some time. E-Z quick download...you might get annoyed what you find too. Cheers, bro.

64 posted on 10/29/2002 12:29:47 AM PST by FlyVet
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To: FreedomPoster
Often running Zonealarm (it's been a little flakey under XP - anyone have anything better?) Yes, get rid of XP! Won't allow it on anything I own, nor anything my corp own's. Spyware from MS, or spyware from anyone else is still spyware. Blackbird.
65 posted on 10/29/2002 2:52:11 AM PST by BlackbirdSST
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