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Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
(From our Information Avenue Premium Edition Newsletter - August 6, 2004)

"So, who cares if someone tracks my browsing habits and sells this information to advertisers. I got a cool little smiley program free..." . Someone recently made this comment in an email to us and I guess it set off alarm bells. We wonder how many out in Internet Land feel the same way? To us it's a scary thought that someone would willingly trade privacy for a program that does little more than add "smiley" faces to their email. Especially when they could buy a program for $15.00 to $20.00 like our Smileycons or the other similar products available. Spyware and its cousin adware will do more than just invade your privacy, it adds insult to injury by burning up your own resources to display their advertisements on your computer! You probably have anti-virus software installed (we hope!). You should have anti-spyware software installed. It's every bit as important!

We have seen first hand the damage that adware, spyware, and other nefarious software can cause. It's not a pretty site and it's not easy to repair. Often it takes formatting the hard drive, losing important data, and re-installing Windows to make the computer useable again. We have personally been involved with repairing the computers' of friends which have be devastated by spyware; devastated to the point where the computer was virtually useless or so full of popups and garbage that the computer was very difficult to use.

The lies and schemes spyware makers use: The most ubiquitous one is what we call the "Our Products Are Not Spyware" game. You've seen them. Sites that proclaim their software contains no spyware. The only way you can tell is by reading the entire EULA (End User License Agreement) of the product you are interested in downloading. This, regrettably, can be a daunting task. Some EULAs can be over 20 pages long with all the incriminating things buried at or near the end. You will notice they are written in intentionally convoluted legal language. READ THE PRODUCT'S EULA. If it seems unreasonably long or intentionally difficult to understand be wary of the product. Do a Google search (or use your favorite search engine) for the program name plus the word spyware, like this: "the program name+spyware" (without the quotes). Since spyware has so many definitions and world governments have yet to create a universal definition of "spyware", spyware companies can legally claim their products contain no "spyware" because no one has defined it yet . Many well-known spyware companies use this ploy to its fullest extent. Remember, when you install a program you are entering into a legally binding agreement with the software developer and indicating merely by installing the product that you are agreeing to ALL the terms in the EULA. Some companies even include a clause in the EULA that allows them to change the license agreement at any time, without giving you notice, for any reason. Now, that's a scary thought, isn't it?

Spyware and its kin are evolving and new and more pernicious variants of spyware now install in several locations on your hard drive and in the Windows registry. Even after you remove them they keep coming back from another location. A location in which they were hidden on your own computer. Adware and Spybot, long the two most favored anti-spyware programs simply are not sophisticated enough (yet) to remove spyware from several locations on your hard drive and your registry. They'll eventually figure out how (hopefully) but by then spyware may have evolved again. That's why we recommend you use both AdAware and Spybot: What one misses hopefully the other will catch.

We have to cringe when we read statements like the one that inspired this rant. People who willingly give up their privacy in exchange for "freeware" are the ones who unwittingly help the spyware makers thrive and give them incentive to evolve into even greater menaces. And, this affects us all. Because the more sophisticated spyware/malware gets, the harder it will be for even those of us who are careful to avoid being infected by it.

In today's world, anti-spyware software is as essential as anti-virus software. You shouldn't be without protection from spyware. It can do as much damage to your computer as viruses, Trojans and worms. We urge all of you to install anti-virus software on your computer.

You really need to be using at least two anti-spyware programs. Right now, the spyware/adware world is changing so rapidly the technology simply doesn't exist that will allow one single anti-spyware to do it all. We recommend SpySweeper (Webroot) and Spybot Search and Destroy (Free). We do not recommend Ad-Aware at this time because of Ad-Aware's policy of removing adware and spyware from its databases simply because a company or developer threatens them with legal action. Obviously Ad-Aware is more interested in protecting itself from lawsuits than in protecting your computer from spyware and adware.

Download a free trial and check your computer..you can't lose..try it and see.
Download a free trial and check your computer. You can't lose- you can only win!

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