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Spyware

By pctech ·
One may ask why I would start this discussion about spyware under the Security topic. Simple, I see spyware as a possible security threat. If not now, certainly in the very near future.
The term "spyware" is becoming more and more ambiguous. At it's conception, spyware was nothing more than a cookie placed on your computer to collect rather benign information about your system and your preferences on how a page was displayed when you visited a website. This is no longer the case. The only true distinction between viruses and some spyware is that the spyware does not conatin a "harmful" payload that could damage your system. Once spyware does carry a harmful payload it is then reclassified as a virus or a worm. Even this distinction is becoming muddied because spyware can have a direct effect on system performance and your ability to use your computer reliably.
So, as techs, what do we do about it? We are not limited in what we can do to rid systems of spyware. One at a time. We can do this by using the very valuable, and very free tools we can download off the intenet. As good as these applications are, they are not the definitive answer to the problems of spyware. This process is simply too slow and is more and more an ineffective method, for too many systems remain infected. Using this tactic, spyware wins. Hands down. We, as techs, must also be information sources to end users and let them know of the problems spyware creates and how to keep their systems clean. Our chances improve with this method but, too few voices to be heard by too many ears. Some lack the skills to use the tools we can help them obtain. We must teach the use of these tools as well. All for free for any true impacts to be realized in the war against spyware. I do not imply that the initial service of "cleaning" their systems should not be without a charge but, teaching them how to avoid future infections and cleaning of their own systems in the future should be a free service we provide to them. We need to inform users that some of the "tools" available to them also are spyware within themselves. Trickery is a standard practice for spyware programmers.
We can have better success as consumers. We, as consumers, need to let these advertisers know that their products will NOT be used from any company that employs the use of spyware to sell their products. A larger and more effective voice that advertisers will have to pay heed to. For this to have an impact, consumers must be resolved to stand firm in their commitment to avoid buying products sold by these companies. This method of fighting the war on spyware will have a better chance of succeeding.
What about as members of society? What can society itself do to combat the onslaught of spyware? This will take legislation. Strong, very effective legislation. Society will need to decide what is just treatment for those that invade and take over our computers. I have my own proposals but, I can not speak for society.

Mike Rankin

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Take Ghost images of HD

by Garion11 In reply to Spyware

That will fix everything. You got spyware, No problem, lets ghost it. Back up their personal files because as far as I know Spyware doesn't "infect" personal files (thank god for that) and image it. Don't give ordinary users Admin rights, advise them on which sites are trustworthy etc (an IE installation popup from Macromedia is safe so to speak...etc)

At this point, I think Spyware is as bad as Viruses are, if not worse. These aren't innocent cookies anymore, they are full blown malicious programs which submit personal information to a remote server (god knows where it is) and are pretty much impossible to remove unless you format the HD and reinstall the OS.

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Work arounds

by pctech In reply to Take Ghost images of HD

Garion,
What you suggest is vaible for only a few. The few that are able to use GHOST. Even with this, it is a work around against the problem and is not a solution to the problems associated with spyware. How long are you going to be willing to GHOST an image back to your hard drive? This imagine did not keep the spyware out before and certainly will not now. You end up chasing your own tail. We need to attack the problem and not its symptoms.

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I agree

by Garion11 In reply to Work arounds

totally. But mine was more of a temporary solution. But as I keep thinking about this, Spyware doesn't have to be used just for commercial purposes as it is being used right now. A hacker can make it "act like a Virus" by having personal, financial information be sent to his/her server.

Another solution would be to deny the users Admin rights, EDUCATE users (home and corporate,yes visit your porn sites, just don't install plug-ins etc,), install an desktop side firewall if that stuff helps...etc.

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Temporary

by pctech In reply to I agree

Garion, you are also correct that temporary measures must be used until a viable solution can be found. I can not and will not disagree with this. You comments on spyware being used for more than corporations wanting to flood you with their offers is exactly why I started this topic under the security topic. We are now being confronted with spyware that will not go away no matter our efforts for it to do so. I see this as another crucial step towards what you suggest on security concerns. We need to discover viable answers to this problem now and not later. I think a lot depends on this and spyware is fast becoming more than a mere annoyance.
A desktop firewall will help to some degree. Zone Alarm started the industry with not only blocking incoming attacks but, also, checking outgoing traffic as well. My ISP gives me a dynamic IP address for my cable modem. This helps, to some degree, to make my system a moving target. My system is behind a NAT router and I have Zone Alarm as well. These people are getting smarter for I have had Zone Alarm disabled and corrupted on my computer from the outside, either through a direct attack or by a worm that got in and disabled it. Well, the attack did not have its desired effect for once Zone Alarm gets corrupted, there ain't nuthin' getting out. I uninstalled Zone Alarm and reinstalled it with a password. A few more tweaks and they may obtain their desired effects. That bothers me.

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I agree too

by Oz_Media In reply to I agree

Yes Garion, I agree. It is my DUTY to visit porn sites throughout my day, especially the cracked ones, as it gives me a good idea of how they work, where the password lists are stored and what they use to track visitors and earn money.

It is actually something I may add to my next contract renewal in 2006. "3 Hours per day investigating porn sites and becoming aware of the dangers of farm animals and miscellaneous foreign objects."

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The Wrong Approaches

by donaldcoe In reply to I agree

In today's environment the key phrases are immerging as: Admin Rights - Educate Users and Lock Down the Internet. No matter what road you decide to take the Human factor will be the deciding factor. I have found limiting Admin Rights creates a whole new set of problems where the user is unable to perform the most basic of house cleaning measures - defrag or clearing out Internet Temp Files or cookies. You say educate users to many users do want to be educated (the human factor) needing education means you might have a lack of intelligence.
My phrase is Spare the Rod - Spoul the Child, treat you server like it is a War Zone. When a New User arrives and wants access They sign the Does and Don't Roster, next invest in multiple Spyware scanners running 24/7, next Set up Network Anti-Virus applications to grab Definition Updates daily if they are available - set every workstation to have daily scheduled system scans. NOW Be willing the Spank That Offending Hand of those that want to test the resolve once your users find out that errors have consequences they will be hammering down your doors to be EDUCATED.

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Spyware & Viruses BIG $$$$$$

by kimscomputing In reply to The Wrong Approaches

While I too am tired of viruses and spyware. It must be a big chunk of the technology economy. Nobody buys much software any more but everyone buys anti-virus software. Removing it is a good part of my business. It is sad that it has come to this but right now spyware and viruses are big $.

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Small Scale Operations Hit Hard

by eriksblues In reply to Spyware & Viruses BIG $$$ ...

It is interesting to read all these comments as XPSP2 is downloading. I presently work in graphics and we use 4 whole computers (essentially a home network setup). Access to the internet is a must...and with it comes spyware, malware, viruses, and whatever else. Desktop Publishing software is expensive, along with the mandatory Microsoft Office (clients use it). With every operating system upgrade it has gotten more and more expensive and the so-called "free" adware/spyware/virus removal programs don't cut it (even in safe mode). Because of compatiablity issues(client needs) one machine has to run Windows 98SE, the others XP. This makes for fun. I used to work for a company that built laptops and would rather deal with the issues of simply building systems than keeping them operating (budget restraints lol). It is great to hear Lan Adminstrators express their knowledge. But small operators and home users are also being hit hard and they do not have the knowledge base that administrators do.

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The Offending Hand

by parisok1 In reply to The Wrong Approaches

The problem especially on a large network is when the offending hand and the problem users are all way above you in the food chain. Without support from the top the problem can never go away due to inability to enforce the rules.

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Would be Nice

by Americium In reply to Take Ghost images of HD

It would be nice to be able to afford a license for Ghost for each workstation. But at around 24 bucks a pop, it's just not feasible.

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