No Vacation from Spyware

I‘m back after two great weeks on vacation in Rio de Janeiro. I love traveling internationally, but there is nothing like home. I honestly don’t think that I could travel for two weeks out of the country without the internet. Internet has definitely made the world a smaller and more easily accessible place.

Every morning, I wake up and get my internet fix for the day at the local internet cafe. Yesterday, I went to Delta.com to change my seat assignments so hopefully I wouldn’t have anyone next to me for the long trip home. As soon as the first page of Delta’s web site came up, BOOM. A cheesy ad for Orbitz.com discount tickets popped over the Delta screen. And that is SPYWARE. Spyware had made it all the way down to my hidden little internet cafe in Rio de Janeiro.

Spyware is software that runs on your computer that tracks your activity on your PC. In my case, the spyware saw that I was on an airline site, and then displayed the pop up ad from their servers for cheap airline tickets. We’ve been tracking spyware for a while, and I am amazed at the number of PC’s that have spyware, and the numbers seem to be growing. Here’s why Spyware is bad for you and your PC.

Legality – It is unclear whether spyware is legal. Several media companies such as
the Washington Post, Dow Jones, Tribune Interactive, Knight Rider, Advance Publications, and Gannett, have filed suit against Gator, one of the largest adware companies stating, rightfully so, that they are hijacking your and my eyeballs from looking at their own advertising. Independent on how the courts rule, the ethics of spyware are questionable at best.

Sneaky – So how does spyware get on your computer? Some of the time, it happens when you install some shareware or freeware. For example, Kazaa will install spyware if it is installed with all the default settings. But, and this is a big BUT, the main reason is through sneaky advertising. If you have ever seen an ad on Yahoo about your system clock being incorrect, it then encourages you to fix the problem by downloading some software. Not only does it not fix your system clock, it installs spyware.

System Performance – If you think about it, if you have a little program running on your computer tracking your activity, it will slow down your PC. Sometimes a little bit, and sometimes a lot depending on your PC. At PC Pitstop, we are committed to get each and every PC running at peak performance. That means, NO SPYWARE.

System Stability The authors and programmers of spyware are not your typical software company. They don’t have a web site to report bugs and errors, and without an adequate feedback loop, they really have no commitment to writing good software. Even if they were, how could they get you to download the bug free version of the spyware? We believe at Pitstop that spyware could be the #1 reason for instability. If your system is acting funny, won’t shut down properly, or locks up intermittently, the root cause could well be spyware.

Privacy – Dagnabbit, they’re spying on me and I don’t like it. I don’t need BIG BROTHER telling me what ads that I need to see. Thank you very much.

Our research shows that spyware is on as much as 50% of the PC’s that visit Pitstop. That’s right half. And the problem seems to be growing. Here’s what we are doing at Pitstop.

  • Spyware detection – We have built a database of close to a hundred of the most common spywares which are automatically detected and alerted when running the Pitstop tests.
  • Spyware research – We are tracking the most common spyware and their trends to see which ones are a growing or declining problem.
  • Pest Patrol – We have partnered with the premier spyware software company. Together we are building the databases and developing the software to identify and eradicate spyware from your computer, and hopefully from the universe of computers that visit Pitstop.
  • Anti Spyware Brigade – Independent of PC Pitstop, a group of Pitstop users have created a separate forum to discuss spyware issues called the Anti Spyware Brigade. Come join forces with them.

Well, I’m rested and back from vacation but there’s lots of work to do! But I’m re-energized and excited.

Happy and Safe Computing.,

Rob Cheng
CEO PC Pitstop LLC

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