Spyware: The Bane of The Internet
by Cloudeight Internet ©2004
|How do you at Cloudeight define
spyware? How can I recognize it? How can I remove it? Are there sites that list
spyware programs? How else can I protect my privacy?
These are questions we're asked every day. We're going to provide you with some answers. These are not the only possible answers but they are how we determine spyware and what we recommend. We hope you find this page a valuable resource and will add it to your favorites should you wish to refer to it often.
1. What is Spyware?
Our definition is any software that installs on your computer without your knowledge or consent. Any software that installs other software without your knowledge or consent. Any software that will not allow you to install the program you want without installing something else as well ..because this "something else as well, you can be sure, is the spyware component. Any software that collects data about you, private or otherwise, and stores that information in a database for any reason, without specifically telling you what it will do with that information. Any software that intentionally makes itself nearly impossible to remove by using normal procedures (Control Panel-->Add or Remove Program) or makes it appear that it is easy to uninstall by creating an entry in Control Panel, Add or Remove Programs only to leave behind its spyware components. Any software which hijacks your browser's start page and makes it difficult to change back to your preferred start page. Any software which changes your default search engine without your consent and displays skewed results based not upon what you're searching for but upon who paid the search engine company the most. Any program which automatically installs updates to itself without your knowledge or consent, or prior approval (other than via an incomprehensible EULA "End User License Agreement"). Any program which sells, rents, gives away, shares, or has the capacity to sell, share, rent, or give away information it has collected from your computer without also having the capacity to explicitly ask your permission before doing so. Any program which installs itself via a drive-by download or from a pop-up add where clicking "OK" downloads the software, where clicking "CANCEL" downloads it, and where closing the popup window by clicking the "x" at the top-right hand corner downloads it. Any program (other than 'cookies' which are not programs and are not spyware per se) which is recognized by legitimate software spyware removal tools as spyware. We also refer to such programs as scumware or trickware ...or "too-good-to-true-ware".
This definition is intentionally broad. It's meant to make you wary of many types of software and encourage you to use your own, good common sense before downloading anything. It is, more than anything our opinion. We hope you find it useful in your personal battle against spyware, scumware, and trickware.
2. How can you recognize it?
Your first, best, line-of-defense is your own common sense. The Internet, despite its rather altruistic distant past, is not a free candy store. There are billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars to be made and just like in real life, there are those out looking for the easy buck. If you see something advertised as free and it pops-up wherever you go, and the company is practically jamming the software down your throat to get you to install it; or it promises you things that seem too good to be true. Be suspicious. Take a look at the company offering it. If it's a big company and they're offering you something free, and you think they're just being nice, beware. You have a judgment call to make. Microsoft offers free things for your computer and they're a very big company. We don't consider their offerings to be spyware because the types of programs they offer are generally utilities or updates designed to make your Windows experience better.
The Excite Group, a large, publicly traded company, offers "SmileyCentral" AKA "FunWebProducts" free. Hmm...but they won't allow you to install "SmileyCentral" without "MyWebSearch" toolbar.(Note: The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is very close to banning such tactics as those kinds of tactics are typical of spyware). Excite Group/MyWay spends millions of dollars promoting their "free programs". This is an example where you really need to call upon your common sense and gut instincts despite the assurances they make of "No Spyware!". Why would a huge company give away something free and spend millions of dollars promoting it? Just because they like you so much? When is the last time General Motors gave you a car? Please...beware. Read the FULL EULA of products like "Name removed due to threat of lawsuit", SmileyCentral (AKA MyWay, AKA FunWebProducts) and don't believe every "No Spyware!" you see. Sometimes companies merely take advantage of the many definitions of spyware to make empty promises. Be careful.
(Note: These opinions are our opinions after seeing problems caused by software of this type and installing and removing software of this type. We are not referring to any particular software as spyware in the narrowest definition of it, We are warning you to be wary of software which forces you to install something you may not want in order to get something else you may want.)
Cloudeight is often asked how we can provide the 2000+ free download we offer without using spyware. The answer is simple. We don't spend millions on advertising. We clearly indicate our site depends on the generosity of its visitors who we hope will buy the high quality software we offer from our store, or one of our E-Books, our CD-ROMs or make a small donation. We will never stoop to including software in any of our products. When you download our Smileycons program you only install the Smileycons program and if you so desire, the add-on smiley packs the are available for it. When you download our stationery, screen savers, QuickNotes, Funletters, or WonderScreens, you get only what you downloaded and you don't have to install something else to get it. We have always been committed to your privacy and we will always continue to do so.
3. How do I remove Spyware?
Amazingly, some of the software that provides the best defense again spyware and tools to remove spyware are free. Really free. Others however are not free and may actually be Spyware themselves.
We recommend the following Spyware removal and defense tools:
1. Spybot Search & Destroy (Spyware Removal Tool)
2. Ad-Adware (Spyware Removal Tool)
3. CWShredder (Targeted Spyware Removal Tool)
4. Spyware Blaster (Spyware Prevention Tool)
Spyware Removal Tools To Avoid (suspected Spyware)
SpyWare Nuker (link leads to more information and not to the SpyWare Nuker Web site)
MailWiper/SpyWiper (link leads to more information and not to the Mail Wiper/SpyWiper Web site)
SpyHunter (link leads to more information and not to the SpyHunter site or download)
4. Are there sites which have lists of spyware or where I can learn more about Spyware?
Sure, there are some really good sites that offer great information about Spyware. Spyware lists are very hard to maintain because of the number of spyware programs being released every day. So be sure to check back often. The sites below are our favorite references but you may find many others by searching the Internet.
5. How else can I protect my Privacy?
Install a good anti-virus program and keep it updated. We don't recommend any Anti-Virus or Internet Security Suite which charges you an annual subscription fee. There is no evidence that these programs are any better than the free ones currently available.
AVG Anti-Virus (free version available for home/personal use)
AVAST Anti-Virus (free version available for home/personal use)
Kerio Internet Firewall (free version available for home/personal use)
Sygate Internet Firewall (free version available for home/personal use)
Outpost Internet Firewall (free version available for home/personal use)
In the coming months Windows will announce Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. It will make dramatic and welcome changes to the security of your computer (in you're using Windows XP) and make it easier for you to identify and and prevent the hijacking of your browser by spyware and scumware companies. It will enhance the built-in firewall and button-down your Outlook Express. It's almost a new version of Windows with some really great features. Windows XP SP2 will be a great tool in your fight for privacy and security on the Internet and we'll be keeping all our readers informed as we get closer to the release date, now expected to be June 2004.
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All contents copyright ©2004 Cloudeight Internet LLC (all rights reserved)