Understanding Adware, Spyware, Logging, Hijackers & Phishing

Mac Attack Is Preferred To Weasly and Rascally Entry (WARE)

Saturday, June 25, 2005 by Chuck | Discussion: Personal Computing

Many nasties exist in cyberland just waiting to plant themselves on an unprotected computer. In fact, recent studies have shown 74% of broadband users had spyware or adware on their computers; 67% had no antivirus or had outdated software on their PCs; and nearly 50% do not currently have a firewall. Statistics can be deceiving, but nearly 85% of computer users do not have adequate protection (antivirus, antispyware, firewall) on their systems placing them at risk. This last statistic is simply amazing considering the amount of information about viruses alone commonly known.

What risk, you meekly ask with a wry smile? Why the risk of spyware, malware, hijacking, logware. viruses, worms, trojans and phishing to name the more popular ones with new ones propagating faster than earthworms in summer. The bad guys are constantly creating nasties to invade the good guys' systems which many owners are not even aware of. I was recently called to aid a nervous friend who had no idea whatsoever what was happening to her system. She had recently subscribed to broadband (and I won't mention ComCast by name) and the tech had installed everything by the book. Yes, by the book, except he did not inform her she need a current antivirus, antispyware or firewall to protect her investment. My diagnostics found and removed 1,263 pieces of spyware, 8 viruses, 4 trojans and 6 worms which fortunately had done no permanent damage to the unit. She was encouraged to contact that company I won't disclose (ComCast), but probably didn't since chances are no responsibility would have been taken. Also, this company doesn't offer any free security software for subscribers like Cox Communications does. So it goes.

The first step in diagnosing any problem regarding WARE (weasily and rascally entry) is to closely examine your computer operation. Turn on the unit and then set back to watch the booting up. Here is a checksheet to help you:

1. Turn on your system, set back, relax and watch the advertising show. Quite a show will be displayed if you have sufficient inundated adware (advertising spyware) and you will notice continuous popups. The products displayed are many, but more so is the rapidity of each popup taking up your windows memory as well as bandwidth while demonstrating subliminal advertising to the hilt. It is safe to assume you are infested with adware if this occurs, but the products shown aren't that good. Make one check mark.

2. Lets say you turn on your system and it has difficult booting up. In fact, you have problems entering safemode and mutter to yourself: "damn Microsoft." It may not be Microsoft's entire fault, but a small portion is. Spyware can invade many different portions of your system and be transporting worms or viruses to make your life more exciting as well. Where did they come from, you ask? Probably not from the bar you were hanging at last night nor from the date experienced, but could have came from the email received afterwards; or from that free piece of software you installed; or from just being on the internet. WHAT!!!!! Yup, just by being on the internet.

The internet has changed substantially from years ago. Duhhhhhh!!! A system is at risk these days simply by going on the internet without sufficient protection-nasy bots hang out there testing individual computer protection and zoom onto an unprotected one after sending back sufficient information to bring the equivalent of the Red Sea spyware to you computer's front door. This may sound exaggerated, but not that much since the nastie technology has advanced substantially and for every protection released by a recognized laboratory, a counter-nastie is devised by someone out there to attack it. It can be described as evolutionary to the full extent and is an ever crusading battle for truth, justice and the American way. Where is Superman when you need him?

Back to spyware which plants itself on your computer and sends back information to a server ranging from your marketing habits, sites visited, personal information, etc. It is not a good thing to have on your computer and should be removed as soon as possible.

3. Hijackers-these little devils do exactly what the name implies>hijack your computer and without you even being aware of it. Hacks come onto your system, look around for personal information like passwords, financial information, telephone numbers, etc., and then proceed to do things like download illegal software onto the harddrive, make numerous phone calls, credit card purchases, etc., while your computer is identified as the one used for all transactions. Normally, they are discovered when the credit card or telephone bill arrives indicating $3000 worth of charges in Singapore and you scream!!; and perhaps when something peculiar happens with the computer like bouncing around or programs not there before. Either way, by then the damage is done and the culprits have skipped out leaving you with the aftermath of perhaps identity theft, numerous long distance and international phone calls, tons of credit card purchases and the need to cry all night long. All you can do is prevent it from even happening again after reporting identity theft to the authorities and Barney.

4. Loggers-these devices are implanted on your system to record and transmit everything you log onto your keyboard. Imagine, everything you key into the system has been transmitted to a server somewhere with the idea of obtaining personal identity such as social security numbers, checkings/saving accounts, and any other preferably financial information that can be gleaned. It's mind boggling!!

5. My new favorite is entitled Child Protection or Surveillance TV...in reality its another device which takes snapshots of your entire harddrive or individual files for transfer to a server located in some unknown place where another computer examines for personal information. Very advanced, very sophisticated and demands a good antispyware with current definitions to find on your system.

6. Malware, also called Riskware, is anything that poses malice or risk to your system. This can range from a latent threat which may lay dormant for awhile and then come forth to deliver a potent virus, worm, logger, or hijacker. It depends upon which form deviousness the programmer had in mind when conceiving or if he or she had been to mass recently. Regardless, they can be identified with a good antispyware and dispatched to nastie heaven in the manurepile of digital bliss.

7. One last latter day creation Phishing. Phishing involves professional looking email from what appears to be your bank, ISP, etc., usually stating they are reorganizing financial information and would like for you to resubmit yours again. NOTTTTTTTT!! Its not the real thing and will go only to a server probably out of country where good use will be made of the information given. New security packages now have developed anti-phishing packages, but the best thing is common sense. REMEMBER THE FOLLOWING:

1. Nothing is free completely.....you will always receive something in the background if download.

2. Never open emails you don't recognize. Opening one is sufficient enough to insure an abundance of spam and possible unleashing of nasties upon your system.

3. Never respond to spam. They take it as consent has been given. Best thing is to simply brand it as junk mail, let your system remove it, or delete it, and then report it to your ISP.

4. Don't be taken in by official looking email that resembles your financial institution, ISP or something similar. It probably isn't and could prove far more devastatin than you can imagine. Ignore all Selective Service Draft Notices.

5. Always beware if downloading something, like software, and it comes in a bundled package. Generally, this is an indication it provides products for you to evaluate which involves spyware. Always go to reputable sites for software.

6. USE COMMON SENSE with everything. Keep you antivirus definitions current; update your antispyware consistently; and be aware of your firewall, keep it current and see what it stops.

7. Check your checkings/saving account statements; any other financial investiments; phone bill; credit card statements, etc., to insure nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

8. Never give a contribution to anyone named Barney who claims to be purple and sings a weird song beginning with "I love you, you love me..." Chances are its not Barney, but someone named Bluto seeking enough scratch to find Popeye for a hit. Don't be fooled.

We now come to the part where a discussion of good antispyware products is necessary. Well, this must be prefaced by determining broadband including DSL or using dialup yet. I heartily recommend the use of a router with NAT for broadband/dsl even if only one computer is used. Secondly, choose a good antivirus, firewall and antispyware. I currently utilize an excellent D-Links router with NAT and two anti-spyware programs, SpySweeper and counterSpy. You can't lose with two antispyware programs, but may have difficulty running two antivirus programs simultaneously, i.e. Norton and McAfee. My system only uses one antivirus, Kaspersky Personal Professional and one firewall, Zone Alarm For Wireless. In total, they all work superbly and provide excellent protection for my needs.

I run a wireless for my laptop and use the same two antispyware programs, Kaspersky Anti-Hacker and Kasperky Personal Professional. Again, the protection is superb and no noticeable problems have been noted since configuring both the desktop and laptop.

Now, do you know enough to go out there and fight the good fight. Probably, but you will learn a great deal in the future as the evolutionary struggle continues. You can always visit sites like McAfee, Symantec, Kasperksy, etc., to view the latest virus/worms/trojans; and there are excellent sites for spam like The Spamhaus Project (www.spamhaus.org) or the following for WARE: www.kephyr.com, www.spyware.guide and www.webroot.com has a wonderful guide entitled Truth About Spyware and Adware. There are also psychiatric/psychological sites if you ever become confused to the point of believing you are one with your computer. Feel free to write the following in Google: whyme, hit enter and wait for the results. Help is on the way and you will find your personality again!!!
Reply #1 Saturday, June 25, 2005 4:29 AM
i know a lotta people use zonealarm. hopefully (for them) they wont feel any need to change cuz they may be in for a surprise should they ever decide to uninstall it.

which is why i was really jazzed to discover sygate's personal firewall (the standard version is free). altho i still havent moved up to xp (i prefer to stay about 6 years behind microsoft cuz that's about as long as it takes for them to work out all the bugs the way they shoulda done before they brought it to market), i've hadda clean out several xp systems like the one you described. turns out the sygate firewall is pretty useful in that regard as well cuz it wont permit anything to make a connection without asking first. which means you can easily see whats tryin to call where. other than that, i rely on hijack this, spybot s&d and adaware. whatever one don't get, the others do.

if your friend is running xp (as im guessing she does) it aint really comcast's fault (even tho they palm off a lotta copies of macafee on unsuspecting users hahaha) so much as it is microsoft for tossing in that counterproductive xp firewall. it's really a shame that microsoft customers can't get like 50c or $1 back directly from gates personally for even 10 minute period spent figuring out how to fix something that never worked to start with. it would be fun to see him go into debt as a crowd asked over and over and over again..'hey bill. if you make such good stuff how come you aint rich no mo?'
Reply #2 Saturday, June 25, 2005 6:19 AM
I really doubt XP SP2 is less secure than the previous Windows versions. Or ain't it what ya meant?
Reply #3 Saturday, June 25, 2005 8:01 AM
I really doubt XP SP2 is less secure than the previous Windows versions. Or ain't it what ya meant?

gates woulda had to work them kids of his 40 hours a day to make anything less secure than xp prior to sp2. win98 and winme are now--for all practical purposes--more secure than xp sp2 in that they arent vulnerable to most of the exploits responsible for creating the vast windows zombie bot army
Reply #4 Saturday, June 25, 2005 8:48 AM
gates woulda had to work them kids of his 40 hours a day to make anything less secure than xp prior to sp2.

If you have such a high opinion of Windows, why do you use it when there are other options out there?
Personally, I like Windows and have never had a problem with it that wasn't of my own making. Not being very computer literate, I have had many experiences in starting over because my own errors. However, I put the blame squarely where it belongs, on myself, and not on someone else. Not trying to sound like a troll but it frustrates me when people complain about Gates all the time when they are sitting at their computer that is running mostly microsoft products when there are other options. Thanks for letting me vent some steam. Nothing personal.
Reply #5 Saturday, June 25, 2005 2:09 PM
Thanky you all for reading and commenting on this writing.

Kingbee, my friend was not running any firewall, antivirus or antispyware whatsoever when hooked up to Comcast. Granted, she should have been more aware, but wasn't prior to my looking at her system. I immediately set her up with Kaspersky Personal Pro antivirus, SpySweeper and CounterSpy and decided to use McAfee Firewall. She is happy now with few problems other than an occasional piece of spyware that slips through and is caught.

ComCast and others will probably state it isn't their responsibility and perhaps isnt't; but good public relations and and customer service should be at least informing one of the dangers which they do at great length on their website.

Bottom line is it is our individual responbsibility to inform ourselves and learn as much as possible.

I just removed the ChildProtect and another surveillance spyware from my computer and wondered how it got in. Such an evolutionary business that it would seem a cure for cancer could be forthcoming if all this intellect could gather under one roof instead of using it to create viruses, worms, trojans, etc. Oh well, to each their own.
Reply #6 Saturday, June 25, 2005 5:28 PM
Not trying to sound like a troll but it frustrates me when people complain about Gates all the time when they are sitting at their computer that is running mostly microsoft products when there are other options

i don't think it's too much to expect microsoft to actually fully develop a product prior to putting it on the market. anyone who buys a new windows incarnation during the first two years after official release is paying full value for a beta release.
Reply #7 Saturday, June 25, 2005 5:50 PM
my friend was not running any firewall, antivirus or antispyware whatsoever when hooked up to Comcast.

i've cleaned 6 xp systems for friends, all of which had about the same amount of crap as you described. none of the owners had any concept of what was wrong other than their computers were no longer of much practical use.

i don't disagree that providers--especially broadband providers--should inform new customers about the need to protect themselves. a good 80%--if not more--of the zombie portscans to which i've been subjected over the past 2 years originate with infected (and presumably unattended) comcast client systems (comcast is my provider so it's sorta like an attack from within). comcast is derelict in not shutting them down on its own initiative (i've had to report some of the most annoying zombies at least three times before they went silent).

still, if ms had been concentrating half as much time and energy on user security as they did methods to discourage unauthorized xp use, perhaps it wouldn't have been so readily exploitable. on the other hand, they weren't that successful in preventing xp piracy
Reply #8 Saturday, June 25, 2005 6:18 PM
I agree with you, Kingbee. Microsoft places products on the market without adequate research and development; and then attempts to rebuke any argument regarding the insecurity of such while simultaneously released security updates. It doesn't make sense to many of us who see the hypocrisy.

Secondly, Bill Gates and MS have to incur some of the blame for spyware, etc, since their security inadequacy promoted the development of these nasties in retaliation for what many hackers stated ws the arrogance of Mr. Gates in regards to his products. Granted, MS had a market prodominance, but hackers took exception to his claims and seem to make unveiling all the holes their life ambition. Regardless, many reputable laboratories and organizations informed MS the legitimate way and still MS held back on making many changes.

The other irony is MS waiting for so long to address issues such as junk mail and popups in the Internet Explorer. Thank goodness for third party vendor software such as Mozilla to find safer and more efficient ways to deal with issues MS scoffed at. Many of us would be in deep doodoo without these vendors and their realistic approach to users' problems particularly security which MS would prefer to overlook to promote the "safeness" of their products.

Personally, I have gravitated to Mozilla and Firefox as my primary browsers and email software. I admire their approach, expeditious handling of issues and integration of popu[p/junk mail into their software. They are definitely the wave of the future and I understand the Mozilla Foundation will be phasing out the Mozilla browser suite for more emphasis on Firefox. Eventually they wil probably have a Firefox Suite to compete with MS on that level.

Its time corporations like MS learn to recapture the customer respect attitude that has been lost in pursuit of higher profits. Until then, I prefer software companies that are responsive and empatheric to the user.

Thanks again, Kingbee..

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