Measuring just how complex today’s ‘terms and conditions’ are.
7 years after one lucky PC Pitstop customer won $1,000 by simply reading our End-User License Agreement (EULA) — our experiment continues to garner attention in articles detailing the dangers of unread EULAs.
Hard to believe it has been 4 years since one lucky PC Pitstop Optimize user won $1,000 by simply reading our End-User License Agreement (EULA)!
Our EULA had a clause offering money to anyone who contacted us, but it took five months and more than 3,000 sales before the first person, Doug Heckman, dropped us a line asking about the clause.
In the time since word of our ‘easter egg’ got out, numerous tech columnists have cited our experiment in discussions of privacy. An article published today brought it up again.
PC Pitstop has long been a source of information about unwanted software and how it spreads. Now we’re using our test results database to give you weekly updates about which programs are the most prolific. The prevalence numbers indicate the percent of PCs tested at PC Pitstop where we detected that file running. Our detection works by file name, so some products may be listed multiple times if they consist of two or more files. To check for spyware, adware, unneeded programs, and many other common PC problems, try PC Pitstop Exterminate or our full system scan.
It’s time for a confession. Many of us have peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software on our home PCs. Teenagers most often use P2P to search for and download the latest songs from their favorite artists and adults can find the songs of their youth. PC Pitstop research has shown that many of us have P2P programs such as Kazaa, Grokster, and Morpheus.
Since PC Pitstop opened in March 2000, we’ve tested and optimized more than a million computers. During that time, spyware has become a growing problem that threatens the stability and performance of your PC.
Our statistics indicate that more than 20% of PC’s have some sort of spyware active in memory, stealing CPU cycles, using up system resources, delivering unwanted advertising, and often creating system instability. Worse yet, spyware can threaten your privacy.
It’s no secret that Windows has security holes so large you can drive a truck through them. My last article analyzed the difficulty Microsoft faces with Vista in winning acceptance of an improved security model. But this of course begs the question, what can Microsoft do to make a more secure computing environment for us all? Even if Microsoft is one of the most profitable companies run by the richest man in the world, I hope they can take a little constructive criticism.
When I was going to high school in the late 70’s, required reading for all English students was George Orwell’s 1984. I still remember reading about the overly structured life created by a highly bureaucratic government dubbed Big Brother. The book is essentially an anecdote for many of today’s problems related to governmental power versus the privacy and self determination of citizens such as ourselves.
Rob Cheng’s Take on Sony’s Spyware
Nearly One-Third of Portables are Wide Screen
PC Pitstop Detects Sony Spyware
Sony Rootkit: Number 14 on the Top 25 Spyware
In March 2005, Sony’s BMG music division began shipping music CDs that included a particularly strong form of digital rights management (DRM) software called XCP. These CDs play normally in a standard CD player, but when inserted into a PC they will attempt to install the DRM software onto the PC. The software limits the number of copies you can make and prevents transfer of the music to some music players such as the Apple iPod.
By Robert P. Lipschutz
Adware vendors, in their quest to infiltrate computers everywhere, benefit from confusion, a lack of user knowledge, and the realities of human nature. However, by using a combination of defensive strategies, you can lower the impact of adware on your computer. If you wish to enjoy the benefits of “free” Internet software, the primary carrier of adware, diligence is key.
Since March 2004, PC Pitstop has been surveying WhenU users about their installation experience with WhenU products. Our first report on this data was published in April 2004, and it validated our anecdotal experience that very few users knowingly consent to installing WhenU.
PC Pitstop has previously examined the dangers in P2P software bundles but there are also dangers in the files you can get from these networks. Last week, Chris Boyd (a.k.a. PaperGhost) of VitalSecurity.org published the first public information of spyware installs created by a company named Marketing Metrix Group (MMG). In many ways, though, that is the last chapter of the story.
Over the past few years, a new class of software has emerged that’s up to no good. It goes by many names: spyware, adware, foistware, malware, eulaware, or even crapware. For simplicity we’ll just call them all spyware. Here are some of the “features” you get from spyware. Some spyware may only use one or two of these tactics, while others do quite a bit more.
Your kids are being targeted by spyware and other Internet-based threats. What can you do to help them surf safely?
In the first installment of this series, we showed how various Web sites and software publishers target your children and teenagers with threats such as spyware and adware. Now let’s look at what you can teach your kids about how to surf more safely in spite of the dangers. We’ll highlight some of the danger signs that can provide a tip that something is amiss, and show how to respond in a way that can protect your kids and your computer.
There’s a lot of confusion about exactly what the term “spyware” means and it seems that everyone has an angle. For example, some shady software vendors prominently label their programs “spyware-free” even though in fact they may contain undesirable software hitchhikers that most of us would classify as spyware. The companies justify these claims by using an extremely narrow definition of the term “spyware” — but in our minds, these claims wouldn’t be much different than a soda manufacturer’s proclaiming that its product is “sugar-free” and justifying this statement by arguing that the corn syrup in the soda just doesn’t fall under its definition of “sugar”.
If you have kids, then the computer they use — which may also be the computer you use — is vulnerable to infestation by spyware. Spyware preys on the behavior of children, and teens in particular, by parking itself in the programs they download and on the sites they visit. Peer-to-peer music-swapping software, free online games, screen savers, song-lyrics sites are prime destinations for kids and many of them can carry an unwanted payload that can melt down a machine. But by teaching your kids appropriate behaviors and habits, and using some protective software, you can go a long way toward preventing spyware from gaining a foothold on your system.
The entire spyware issue continues to escalate. Going from bad to worse. Unlike viruses, spyware is becoming about making money, and we are seeing that some of the largest and most trusted names on the internet are doing business with spyware companies. That’s right, names like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are profiting by spreading and endorsing spyware. Let’s take a step back. PC Pitstop research has found more and more software being installed on user’s computer without their knowledge. But the problem doesn’t end there! Once the user realizes that some unknown software program is potentially impacting their PC’s performance and reliability, what do most people do? They research their problem using a search engine such as Yahoo or Google.