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Beating A Silent Drum
Information Avenue Premium - Issue #147 - August 11, 2006

(If you are a member of a forum, group or have a Web site of your own, please post a link to this rant - the link is . We'd appreciate your helping us get this information out to as many people as possible! )

Did you ever feel like you were beating a silent drum? I feel like that every time I write something about spyware. I hope this "rant" is read by all of you because there is a lot of new information here, including (and this is sadly true) a spyware company winning a prestigious award.

P.T. Barnum once said that "there's a sucker born every minute." I used to doubt that; but not anymore. I really don't think too many people these days would fall for bearded ladies, three-headed muscle men, or snakes with human heads. Still, I fear that people really haven't gotten much wiser over the last hundred years or so since Barnum made his fortune mostly from hoaxes and scams.

Today's scams are more devious and not so easy to recognize. And, they're not all limited to the Internet, but let's say the Internet is where they have really taken hold and found a home. They generate billions (over $100 billion last year alone) for their developers and there's no end in sight. In fact it's getting worse; much worse, even with all the new anti-spyware programs out there to "protect us".

For a long time, we've been calling these scams "adware", "spyware", "PUSware" and the like. But, for the purpose of this article, we're going to submit to you that today's adware and spyware are really badware of the same species. This comes from Ben Edelman's excellent research and conclusion that there really is not a nickel's worth of difference between adware and spyware. While, it's true there are varying degrees of "evilness" and harmfulness, I've never heard anyone ever extolling the virtues of installing spyware on a computer. Except, of course, the companies that make the spyware. So for now, we're going to call adware, spyware, and hijackers what they are: spyware.

I know you folks are getting tired of hearing about spyware. And, I'm kind of getting tired of writing about it. But recent events have sent warning lights going off in my mind and they should make them go off in yours too. Because, friends, the spyware situation is not getting better; it's getting much, much worse. And this is in spite of better anti-spyware programs.

Pornography has infiltrated the spyware game now - as witnessed by the marriage of Hotbar and 180solutions covered (rather blithely) in our "The Zango Tango" rant. Pornography is rearing its ugly head in lots of ways these days - particularly on the Internet and particularly with regard to spyware. Money is the name of the game. Money is the new god of the Internet whether we like it or not. And spyware is this god's grim reaper.

Ironically, though, the programs that do the most damage to your computer and now to your sensibilities don't cost you anything. They're "free". And the line between freeware and free software grows thinner and thinner. We realize it's hard for most people to tell the difference between the two. Freeware is free and free software is free to download, install and use, but but the payments you'll have to make, day after day, week and week, and month after month are probably higher than you ever imagined.

Without a doubt, the number one reason that computers are brought into repair shops these days is spyware. Once the spyware has been installed on a computer, it will multiply and spread; and it's only a matter of time before it will bring down the computer's operating system and virtually renders the computer unusable. But, while the computer is still running, is is generating revenue for the spyware maker - every single minute its in use and connected to the Internet. And most people have no idea they're being used to generate revenue for corporations, foreign and domestic - or unwittingly helping to increase the spread and reach of pornography, spyware, adware, and other nasty things.

How does spyware spread once it's installed? Well, you know how we're all taught to keep things "updated"? The update 'feature' that all spyware programs install with the spyware itself becomes the vehicle by which more spyware is installed. Hence it become a death sentence for computers. All the junk the spyware developer can create is automatically installed as a supposed update. When a new program is developed by the spyware maker, it gets installed - and you might not even know what's being installed. All you might learn is that your software (spyware) was "updated". This will continue to happen as long as the spyware remains installed and functional. It will continue to "update" until the point when the computer becomes so overwhelmed it will simply not boot up - or it becomes so slow it has the computer's owner frustrated, screaming and tearing his/her hair out. Then, maybe out of sheer exasperation the computer is taken to a repair shop - and the owner still has no idea what went wrong. If the truth were known, the owner traded his computer for free software - and will now learn how expensive that free software really is.

If you think we're blowing this out of proportion, consider this - It was recently reported that spyware, adware, malware caused over seven billion dollars worth of damage to computers in the last two years. Consumer Reports, who doesn't normally know a lot about computers and even less about software, states: "Viruses and spyware continue to wreak havoc on computers, costing owners an estimated $7.8 billion in the last two years alone, according to a survey taken by the Consumer Reports National Research Center...." That's a lot of money and a lot of damage.

The sad part, the really sad part, is most people do it to their own computer voluntarily. I know. You've heard the horror stories of Windows security flaws and Internet Explorer security holes; and drive-by downloads and "Active-X" installations. But, the facts are people install this stuff voluntarily because they really do believe it is free. And, down the road they'll pay in aggravation, poor performance, and eventually for their computer to be repaired. Everyone needs to learn to be able to tell freeware from free software. There's a world of difference. There's some absolutely great freeware out there, there isn't any good free software. If you want to learn to tell the difference, click here.

It's sad that people don't take more time to understand how the Internet works, how freeware works and how spyware works. Here's a typical example taken from a real experience - and we deal with people like this every day. A few days ago we had a lady write that she uninstalled our program "Smileycons" because her friends showed her how to get smileys for free. Now, we understand that some people are going to uninstall Smileycons, it's the name of the software game. You can't please everyone. But we know (and you know) exactly where this lady was headed and how compelling it must have been for her when her friends told her not to waste her money on "Smileycons" when she could could get free smileys. Of course, she was trusting her friends and she really believed she was going to get smileys free. And you can bet when she got to one of the so-called free smiley sites, she found out her friends were right. They are "free". But, we know that the cost to her will eventually be around $100.00 (repair shops charge around $100.00 minimum to remove spyware and or format the hard drive and reinstall Windows) but for now, indeed, they're free. Her friends told her so. Sigh.

But wait! There's more.

Now, believe it or not, we have supposed experts giving coveted software awards to spyware programs. Oh, yes, indeed we do! Here read this:

"Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 6, 2006 — Ernst & Young LLP today announced the winners of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2006 award in the Minnesota and Dakotas region. This year’s award winners were recognized at a special 20th anniversary gala event.

All of the award winners were selected by an independent panel of judges composed of area leaders from business, academic and civic organizations. The Minnesota and Dakotas Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2006 award winners are:

Master – Albert Annexstad, Chairman, President and CEO, Federated Insurance Companies
Emerging – John Folkestad and Amy Langer, Co-Founders, SÁLO, LLC
Consumer Products – Erik Saltvold, Founder, Erik’s Bike Shop
E-Business – Aaron Weber, Vice President, Robert Weber, President and Founder, and Ryan Weber, Executive Vice President and Founder,, LLC
Life Sciences – Dr. James Carlson, President and CEO, PRACS Institute, Ltd.
Technology – Brett Shockley, CEO, Chairman and Founder, Spanlink Communications, Inc...."

Note the line highlighted in blue text. Executives of, LLC won  the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award for "E-Business". Now, we're not making this up; it's very real. Click here to read the whole article.

You all should know "" by now. They're the purveyors of such spyware goodies as the infamous "Waterfalls" screen saver and dozens of other questionable screen savers and programs. I'm sure most of you have at one time or another stumbled across the "Waterfalls" screen saver. You know, the one in which soothing waterfalls cascade over your desktop by night and advertisements, popups and other unwanted junk appears during the day (while you're using your computer).

It's made by, Entrepreneur of the Year (cough!) and it's listed as badware by products are recognized as spyware, adware, badware by almost every major anti-spyware application. And they apparently don't stop with spyware either; it appears they like to be "spammy". SiteAdvisor says: "After entering our e-mail address on this site, we received 227 e-mails per week. They were somewhat spammy." ( ). Can you imagine? 227 e-mails per week from one company just because you gave them your email address? And, wins "Entrepreneur Of The Year" for E-Business? I'm going call EB and see if we can start sending out 227 e-mails a week to our subscribers, maybe then we'll win an award too. I'd bet, with our luck, we'd be hauled off to jail. Can you see it now? "TC & EB Indicted On Spam Charges". And check this link out about's report on the Waterfalls screen saver by .

When you couple a spyware company winning a prestigious award with Yahoo's continuing troubles getting caught taking money that advertisers paid them (for ads on and spending it with spyware companies to advertise the products that were supposed to be advertised on, it looks to us like spyware is creeping slowly, but surely, into the mainstream - you know, wiggling its way to acceptability. Once that happens, we're all in trouble. There's so much money in spyware, once it becomes acceptable in the mainstream, you'll hardly be able to find any software that isn't spyware. If you want to learn more about Yahoo's increasing chumminess with spyware companies see The Spyware - Click-Fraud Connection -- and Yahoo's Role Revisited, by Ben Edelman. Ben is much respected and  probably the most trusted of all the anti-spyware researchers.

But we can't keep beating this silent drum forever. Our hands are getting sore. We need you and everyone you know to help. What can you do? First of all you can write to Ernst and Young and tell them what your think of them giving an Entrepreneur Of The Year Award to a company like Yes, indeed, we have some addresses for you too. Please do send them an email and tell them your thoughts: <> is the contact address on their website; it can be found under us site manager near the bottom of the page, says feedback. hard to find.

If each of you who read this would write this company, maybe next year they'd actually do some research and check out the companies to which they give their prestigious awards. If you don't, next year Zango might win it and wouldn't that be something?

What else can you do to help? You can educate your friends, family, and business associates that spyware isn't just a catch-all phrase it's costing billions of dollars in damage and is a real threat greater than that presented by viruses and worms. Point them to our Rants -  and point them to Ben Edelman's site which is a terrific treasure trove of well-researched anti-spyware information.

Get To The Point!

The point is: spyware makers reap billions of dollars in income for three simple reasons:

1. Anyone can give something away free. Why? Because there are millions of takers who really believe there's such a thing as a free lunch

2. Advertisers don't give a darn where their traffic comes from

3. Spyware generates billions of dollars because of number 1 and number 2

When you really cut spyware down to the core, what makes it so profitable is the number of people who think multi-million and multi-billion dollar companies are going to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into development of spyware programs and then give them away without asking or expecting any ROI. (ROI is coolspeak for "Return On Investment").

And once the spyware maker gets rolling, they use the money they make by using people's computers as test machines, robots and billboards to finance more spyware and to advertise that spyware all across the 'Net.

Here's an interesting story that happens to be true. We've got Smileycons and Zappit listed on C|Net's ( ). Zappit's free (really free - no strings, no adware, no spyware) and it's doing fairly well - thank you! Smileycons is not free but it's certainly inexpensive ($9.95). C|Net approached us two weeks ago and wanted to arrange for us to advertise with them. Now you can read that anyway you like but Smileycons is buried under ads for all kinds of free "smiley" programs, most of which are variations of FunWebProduct's SmileyCentral (adware/hijacker). But, said C|Net, we could enhance our listing and get right up there with SmileyCentral for only $20,000.00 per month! Talk about two jaws dropping to the floor! Where the heck are we going to come up with $20,000.00 a month and that was with an annual commitment - i.e. nearly a quarter of a million dollars. To FunWebProducts & SmileyCentral $20,000.00 a month is like a dime to us. They're the cream of the PUSware crop, more popular than any other PUSware by far. Installed on some thirty million (by some accounts fifty million) and generating revenue from each one of those, they're making money hand over fist - and most of it is what we'd call "easy money". Advertisers clamor to hop on train like that. The money is pouring in and, folks, they got money and they're using it to get there PUSware installed on as many computers as they can. What will happen to those computers eventually is nearly a certainty, but the audience they're able to reach by pouring millions of dollars into Internet advertising is nothing short of incredible. And just think, for only $20,000 a month we could have our name right up there in lights with SmileyCentral - uh huh!

How can we beat a drum that's loud? You can join us in "educating" advertisers who pander their wares via spyware. Read these two articles by Ben Edelman and you'll find a couple of advertisers who are mentioned a lot on Ben's site and in these articles: they are NetFlix and Vonage.

How Vonage Funds Spyware

Advertisers Funding Direct Revenue

Advertisers Funding 180solutions (now Zango)

These are just a few of the many articles on Ben's site that show how advertisers are the wind beneath the wings of spyware. Let's not keep beating a silent drum, let's beat a loud drum and let these advertisers know what we think about their advertising methods. After all, chasing advertisers away from spyware is surest way to get rid of spyware. If it weren't for the billions of dollars up for grabs, spyware wouldn't be the menace it is today.

Bang your drum loudly and do you part to rid the Web of the scourge of spyware. You might think your voice does not matter, but it does. If you each wrote and told one other person to write to NetFlix at imagine the impact you could have. Vonage doesn't make it easy to contact them. Wonder why?

If we all don't do our part to do as much as we can to stop the proliferation of spyware (and by spyware I mean it in the Ben Edelman sense - that is adware, spyware, browser and search engine hijackers, etc.) we'll all be sorry. Because, pornography and other nasty stuff is creeping into adware and soon it will be entrenched and we'll not only have to deal with spyware and its attendant problems but we'll have to deal with the expansion of the porn problem too. If you don't think this will happen, I say let me open your eyes: Spyware Showing Unrequested Sexually-Explicit Images

Money, Money, Money

So, what's it all about, Alfie? It's all about money. Easy money. Spyware essentially gives you something free in return for the use of your computer as a money-generator, which is bad enough. But when you add in the pornography factor, which is definitely going to become a problem. Add to that the damage that will eventually that will result to your computer from spyware possibly costing you $100.00 or more in repairs and the problem becomes worse and very personal.

We are banging a silent drum unless you get involved in helping us to do as much as we can to educate others and slow down the spread of spyware and the problems that come with it.

There's a sucker born every minute, that's a fact. But, we can all make sure that we are not the suckers and our friends and family aren't either. Your silence only indicates your acceptance. I don't like beating on a silent drum. Help us spread the word and stop the spread of spyware. We cannot do it alone; Ben Edelman cannot do it alone, all the anti-spyware sites together cannot do it alone. None of us can do much to stop the spread of spyware without you.

Do all you can to educate yourselves, your family and your friends; because I don't like beating on a silent drum anymore.

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