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Beware of Phishing Scams

Beware of Phishing Scams by Rob Cheng There is a growing menace on the Internet called phishing. In simple terms, phishing can be defined as using fraudulent emails and web sites to trick you into revealing passwords and user names. The scary part is that phishing is becoming a growing and thriving industry. AntiPhishing.org reported …

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Baseball Blues

2005 is shaping up to be a very interesting year. Major League Baseball is being turned upside down this year due to former player, Jose Canseco’s book, Juiced. Baseball will never be the same, and one day we will look back on this period in baseball with a form of amazement that it could have happened at all. As I think about it, I can not help but see the parallels between spyware and baseball’s steroid problem.

Safe Surfing

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.

Open Letter to Thomas Cook and Oyster Partners

Today I read that Thomas Cook has begun an online ad campaign that includes advertising on Claria’s GAIN ad network. I wanted to make Oyster Partners and Thomas Cook aware that there may be negative aspects to associating their brands with Claria and its GAIN network. Although Claria claims that its users have opted into the GAIN network, our own research shows that most users do not even know the software is installed on their system. A survey of users commissioned by StaySafeOnline showed similar negative feelings about products such as Claria’s. Other researchers have found that Claria/GAIN uses
misleading installation and disclosure practices.

Google and Spyware

On February 1, 2005, Google announced record revenues of $1.032 billion and profits of $303 million. Just like everyone else in the world, I was blown away. What a great company! The stock market seemed to agree since Google’s stock price hit a record high after their earnings announcement.

But there’s something that has been bothering me and many others in the antispyware community about the search engine juggernaut. And that’s Google’s ties to spyware.

It Pays To Read License Agreements

I have a deal for you. In exchange for a free piece of software that helps you keep track of your passwords and other log on information, I’m going to install other programs on your PC that will track your web surfing and display advertising that pops-up on your screen. There will also be other types of ads on your computer based on information we collect.

The Spyware Name Game

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”.

And the Winners Are…

We would like to thank everyone for participating in the January 2005 Top Dawg Challenge. And also special thanks to our sponsor, BFG Technologies. Without further ado, here are the winners:

Are Your Children Safe from Spyware?

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.

Follow the Money

When Dave and I were at the Spyware Conference in Washington DC, we were approached by Avi Nader, CEO of WhenU. Avi was upset because we were passing our WhenU research to various reporters at the conference. Avi cornered Dave and me and asked, “Why are you picking on us? Why don’t you focus on the guys doing identity theft, and other horrible deeds?” I have had a lot of time to think about this question and my answer. Avi, if you’re listening, here is my response.

The Death SPYral – Yahoo/Google/Microsoft

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.

Search Our Known-Programs Database

PC Pitstop collects and analyzes information about running programs during our full system tune-up process. This lets us spot emerging trends in new viruses and spyware, and it also helps us to identify benign-but-unneeded programs that many systems are running.

Yahoo – On the Dark Side

There was a time that Darth Vader was one with the force, but alas, he went to the dark side. And there was a time that Yahoo was the brightest star in the Internet constellation. My browser favorites are chock full of Yahoo sites, including Yahoo Maps and Yahoo Yellow Pages. My home page is My Yahoo, and I save all of my contacts in the Yahoo address book so I can access them from both my PC and my cell phone. There may be better solutions out there, but in almost all cases Yahoo was the first.

PC Pitstop Research Methodology

Our mission at PC Pitstop is simple: help people make their PCs faster, more stable and more secure. PC Pitstop runs diagnostics on users’ PCs to identify things that might help improve performance. The process is fully automated, private and safe.

The Evils of Unwanted Software

There is a war going on out there. As you are reading this, the forces of good and evil are at work battling to control your computer. This is not a joke nor an exaggeration. It is happening every day, and at times, I think the bad guys are winning. I’m talking about unwanted software. Software that installs itself largely without the user’s knowledge. The makers of these softwares are going to great lengths to gain control of your PC to further their own causes. Following are three different and distinct examples:

Telecommunications

I‘ve been in the PC business a long time. I would almost have to call myself a veteran at this point having worked at Texas Instruments (remember the TIPC?), Gateway Computers, and now PC Pitstop. In reflecting back, I am amazed at how far the PC has come, and more importantly the impact it has had on our lives.