Does everyone remember a few years ago the wacko guy that was blowing up mailboxes in the midwest? What I remember most of all is that suddenly everyone was afraid to open their mailboxes. The ramifications were huge. Millions of businesses rely on the US mail to deliver marketing materials, invoices, and other important communications. What would have happened if the US mail became unreliable?
The problem is much worse in cyberspace. Each and every day, my inbox is cluttered with hundreds of unwanted messages. Most of these emails are harmless spam. At least for me, they are harmless because I have a fairly good free spam filter, K9. It is a little tricky to setup but it does a good job of keeping the bad guys out of my inbox.
But of more concern are the true miscreants of cyberspace. First there are viruses. Southwest Airlines has a funny commercial about a woman accidently opening an email called the “Pink Slip” virus. We laugh at the commercial, but the underlying problem is anything but funny.
The most serious threat in my email is phishing. Without exaggerating, I literally get hundreds of phishing emails every week. These dirt bags are trying to trick us into divulging credit card and financial information, as well as passwords to sites like eBay. Every time I see one of these emails, I imagine some little old lady inadvertently clicking on the links and losing her life savings to hacker in Croatia.
Then we have the Internet itself. It is full of scam sites trying to lure you and your kids into downloading a payload of spyware and adware so that they can generate profit from your PC. That’s our definition of spyware. Companies that trick you into installing their software when there’s no reason you would logically want their software. That includes programs like WhenU and Surf Accuracy, but it also includes MyWebSearch by Ask Jeeves, and Sony’s recent exploits that hide software on audio CDs.
It’s the wild wild west out there. The problem is that we don’t realize it. Somehow, we have desensitized ourselves to the truly harmful realities lurking out there. These scumballs would not be out there if they were not successful in scamming someone.
Since our inception in 2000, PC Pitstop has been helping people make their PC’s run faster and more reliably; unwanted and uninvited software has become the number one threat during that time. When we created the company six years ago, I never dreamed the fight would become so large. At this point, we have little choice but to continue the fight to clean up people’s PC’s–to be the sheriff in the wild, wild west. The Internet ought to be about us, the users. One day most of these wild west outlaws will be gone, and I will be proud that PC Pitstop helped to make that happen.