Tag: Tech Support

What is Spyware?

Spyware is Internet jargon for Advertising Supported software (Adware). It is a way for shareware authors to make money from a product, other than by selling it to the users. There are several large media companies that offer them to place banner ads in their products in exchange for a portion of the revenue from banner sales. This way, you don’t have to pay for the software and the developers are still getting paid. If you find the banners annoying, there is usually an option to remove them, by paying the regular licensing fee.

Why is it called “Spyware”?

While this may be a great concept, the downside is that the advertising companies also install additional tracking software on your system, which is continuously “calling home”, using your Internet connection and reports statistical data to the “mothership”. While according to the privacy policies of the companies, there will be no sensitive or identifying data collected from your system and you shall remain anonymous, it still remains the fact, that you have a “live” server sitting on your PC that is sending information about you and your surfing habits to a remote location.

Are all Adware products “Spyware”? 

No, but the majority are. There are also products that do display advertising but do not install any tracking mechanism on your system. These products are not indexed in our database.

Is Spyware illegal? 

Even though the name may indicate so, Spyware is not an illegal type of software in any way. However there are certain issues that a privacy oriented user may object to and therefore prefer not to use the product. This usually involves the tracking and sending of data and statistics via a server installed on the user’s PC and the use of your Internet connection in the background.

What is Spam?

A “spam” e-mail is generally defined as an unsolicited mailing, usually to many people. A message written for, and mailed to, one individual that is known to the sender is not spam, and a reply to an e-mail is not spam, unless the “reply” repeats endlessly.

Spam e-mailers have become a separate part of the Internet, with their own host computers, methods, and politics. Many Internet sites have begun to forbid spamming, for several reasons – one is a sense that it is unethical, another is that, over time, other Internet sites will stop all e-mail from that site and thus prevent legitimate e-mail from getting through. As a result, spammers have begun to set up their own Internet sites — sites that cater to, or encourage, spamming.

Spam Do’s and Dont’s

Never respond to a spam e-mail.

For a spammer, one “hit” among thousands of mailings is enough to justify the practice. Instead, if you want a product that is advertised in a spam e-mail, go to a Web site that also carries the product, inquire there, and tell them you do not approve of spam methods and will not patronize a company that uses spammers.

Never respond to the spam e-mail’s instructions to reply with the word “remove.”

This is just a trick to get you to react to the e-mail — it alerts the sender that a human is at your address, which greatly increases its value. If you reply, your address is placed on more lists and you receive more spam.

Never sign up with sites that promise to remove your name from spam lists.

These sites are of two kinds: (1) sincere, and (2) spam address collectors. The first kind of site is ignored (or exploited) by the spammers, the second is owned by them — in both cases your address is recorded and valued more highly because you have just identified it as read by a human.

Tips for Avoiding Spam

Read carefully when filling out online forms requesting your e-mail address, and exercise your choice.

If you don’t want to receive e-mail from a Web site operator, don’t give them your e-mail address unless they offer the option of declining to receive e-mail and you exercise that option. If you are asked for your e-mail address in an online setting such as a form,make sure you pay attention to any options discussing how the address will be used. Pay attention to check boxes that request the right to send you e-mails or share your e-mail address with partners. Read the privacy policies of Web sites.

Use a filter.

Many ISPs and free e-mail services now provide spam filtering. While filters are not perfect, they can cut down tremendously the amount of spam a user receives.

Short e-mail addresses are easy to guess, and may receive more spam.

E-mail addresses composed of short names and initials like bob@ or tse@, or basic combinations like smithj@ or toms@ will probably receive more spam. E-mail addresses need not be incomprehensible, but a user with a common or short name may want to modify or add to it in some way in his or her e-mail address.

Disguise e-mail addresses posted in a public electronic place.

You will received the most spam just by placing an e-mail address at the bottom of a webpage. Spammers “harvest” these addresses with computer programs that collect and process addresses and add them to spam mailing lists. If a user must post his/her e-mail address in a public place, it is useful to disguise the address through simple means such as replacing “example@domain.com” with “example at domain dot com” or other variations such as the HTML numeric equivalent, in which “example@domain.com” could be written:


If your employer places your e-mail address online, ask the Webmaster to make sure it is disguised in some way.

What is a Trojan?

A trojan virus is a small program that runs hidden on an infected computer. The trojan gives hackers access to get stored passwords from your computer, read your personal documents, delete files and break your computer, display pictures, and/or show messages on your screen.

How did I get infected?

Trojans are executable programs, which means that when you open the file, it will perform some action(s). In Windows, executable programs have file extensions like “exe”, “vbs”, “com”, “bat”, etc. Some actual trojan filenames include: “dmsetup.exe” and “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs” (when there are multiple extensions, only the last one counts, be sure to unhide your extension so that you see it).

Trojans can be spread in the guise of literally ANYTHING people find desirable, such as a free game, movie, song, etc. Victims typically downloaded the trojan from a WWW or FTP archive, got it via peer to peer file exchange using IRC/instant messaging/Kazaa etc., or just carelessly opened some email attachment. Trojans usually do their damage silently. The first sign of trouble is often when others tell you that you are attacking them or trying to infect them!

How do I avoid getting infected in the future?

You must be certain of BOTH the source AND content of each file you download! In other words, you need to be sure that you trust not only the person or file server that gave you the file, but also the contents of the file itself.

Here are some practical tips to avoid getting infected:

• NEVER download blindly from people or sites which you aren’t 100% sure about. In other words, as the old saying goes, don’t accept candy from strangers. If you do a lot of file downloading, it’s often just a matter of time before you fall victim to a trojan.

• Even if the file comes from a friend, you still must be sure what the file is before opening it, because many trojans will automatically try to spread themselves to friends in an email address book or on an IRC channel. There is seldom reason for a friend to send you a file that you didn’t ask for. When in doubt, ask them first, and scan the attachment with a fully updated anti-virus program.

• Beware of hidden file extensions! Windows by default hides the last extension of a file, so that innocuous-looking “susie.jpg” might really be “susie.jpg.exe” – an executable trojan! To reduce the chances of being tricked, unhide those pesky extensions.

• NEVER use features in your programs that automatically get or preview files. Those features may seem convenient, but they let anybody send you anything which is extremely reckless. For example, never turn on “auto DCC get” in mIRC, instead ALWAYS screen every single file you get manually. Likewise, disable the preview mode in Outlook and other email programs.

• Never blindly type commands that others tell you to type, or go to web addresses mentioned by strangers, or run pre-fabricated programs or scripts (not even popular ones). If you do so, you are potentially trusting a stranger with control over your computer, which can lead to trojan infection or other serious harm.

• Don’t be lured into a false sense of security just because you run anti-virus programs. Those do not protect perfectly against many viruses and trojans, even when fully up to date. Anti-virus programs should not be your front line of security, but instead they serve as a backup in case something sneaks onto your computer.

How do I get rid of trojans?

Here are your many options, none of them are perfect. I strongly suggest you read through all of them before rushing out and trying to run some program blindly. Remember – that’s how you got in this trouble in the first place. Good luck!

Clean Re-installation: Although arduous, this will always be the only sure way to eradicate a trojan or virus. Back up your entire hard disk, reformat the disk, re-install the operating system and all your applications from original CDs, and finally, if you’re certain they are not infected, restore your user files from the backup. If you are not up to the task, you can pay for a professional repair service to do it.

Anti-Virus Software: Some of these can handle most of the well known trojans, but none are perfect, no matter what their advertising claims. You absolutely MUST make sure you have the very latest update files for your programs, or else they will miss the latest trojans. Compared to traditional viruses, today’s trojans evolve much quicker and come in many seemingly innocuous forms, so anti-virus software is always going to be playing catch up. Also, if they fail to find every trojan, anti-virus software can give you a false sense of security, such that you go about your business not realizing that you are still dangerously compromised. There are many products to choose from, but the following are generally effective: AVP,PC-cillin, and McAfee VirusScan. All are available for immediate downloading typically with a 30 day free trial. Anti-Trojan Programs: These programs specialize in trojans instead of general viruses. For the same reasons, some of these programs are effective against most trojans, but none of them will ever be effective against all trojans.

What is a Virus?

Computer viruses are called viruses because they share some of the traits of biological viruses. A computer virus passes from computer to computer like a biological virus passes from person to person.

There are similarities at a deeper level, as well. A biological virus is not a living thing. A virus is a fragment of DNA inside a protective jacket. Unlike a cell, a virus has no way to do anything or to reproduce by itself — it is not alive. Instead, a biological virus must inject its DNA into a cell. The viral DNA then uses the cell’s existing machinery to reproduce itself. In some cases, the cell fills with new viral particles until it bursts, releasing the virus. In other cases, the new virus particles bud off the cell one at a time, and the cell remains alive.

A computer virus shares some of these traits. A computer virus must piggyback on top of some other program or document in order to get executed. Once it is running, it is then able to infect other programs or documents. Obviously, the analogy between computer and biological viruses stretches things a bit, but there are enough similarities that the name sticks.

Types of Infection

When you listen to the news, you hear about many different forms of electronic infection. The most common are:

• Viruses – A virus is a small piece of software that piggybacks on real programs. For example, a virus might attach itself to a program such as a spreadsheet program. Each time the spreadsheet program runs, the virus runs, too, and it has the chance to reproduce (by attaching to other programs) or wreak havoc.

• E-mail viruses – An e-mail virus moves around in e-mail messages, and usually replicates itself by automatically mailing itself to dozens of people in the victim’s e-mail address book.

• Worms – A worm is a small piece of software that uses computer networks and security holes to replicate itself. A copy of the worm scans the network for another machine that has a specific security hole. It copies itself to the new machine using the security hole, and then starts replicating from there, as well.

• Trojan horses – A Trojan horse is simply a computer program. The program claims to do one thing (it may claim to be a game) but instead does damage when you run. Trojan horses have no way to replicate automatically.

What’s a “Worm”?

A worm is a computer program that has the ability to copy itself from machine to machine. Worms normally move around and infect other machines through computer networks. Using a network, a worm can expand from a single copy incredibly quickly. For example, the Code Red worm replicated itself over 250,000 times in approximately nine hours on July 19, 2001.

A worm usually exploits some sort of security hole in a piece of software or the operating system. For example, the Slammer worm (which caused mayhem in January 2003) exploited a hole in Microsoft’s SQL server.

How They Spread

Early viruses were pieces of code attached to a common program like a popular game or a popular word processor. A person might download an infected game from a bulletin board and run it. A virus like this is a small piece of code embedded in a larger, legitimate program. Any virus is designed to run first when the legitimate program gets executed. The virus loads itself into memory and looks around to see if it can find any other programs on the disk. If it can find one, it modifies it to add the virus’s code to the unsuspecting program. Then the virus launches the “real program.” The user really has no way to know that the virus ever ran. Unfortunately, the virus has now reproduced itself, so two programs are infected. The next time either of those programs gets executed, they infect other programs, and the cycle continues.