Spyware, Malware and Other Aggravations

By-products of these applications are pop-up and pop-under windows and other annoyances that come with surfing the Internet. These applications are created and used by marketers and hackers who want to data mine information about you without your knowledge.

If you want to check your computer for spyware, go to www.lavasoft.com and download their free Ad-ware program. This program will scan your computer – much like a virus scanner – and allow you to quarantine these unwanted programs.

We’ve installed Spy-ware on every computer that comes within our reach. One user that had the benefit of an Ad-aware scan found over 400 of these programs on her computer. You may find that your Internet browsing experience will improve after running Ad-aware. The makers of Ad-aware provide this software in the hopes that you will be impressed enough to buy the automatic version of the program.

There are also some nasty new viruses haunting the computing world lately. While Mac users can be tempted to feel smug about the lack of viruses, we should be aware that they affect everyone. The latest Windows viruses, such as NetSky, Bagle and MyDoom, are getting more sophisticated using spyware-like technology.

When these new viruses are activated, they install their own SMTP programs. A SMTP program is normally responsible for sending email on a server. The virus scans the hard drive for any valid email – not just the ones in the address book – and sends out copies of the virus to infect other users. The virus program also authors the email as if it was sent by one of the addresses it found.

System administrators often run virus-scanning software on our mail servers. We do this not only to stop viruses but also to send an email back to the sender to inform them that they may be infected. These “sender” addresses on these new viruses may be hiding the actual sending machine. This is a common practice for spammers, who want you to visit their site while they hide behind a phony email address.

Once again, you should be prepared by installing anti virus software. You can download a free AVG virus software program at: www.grisoft.com. They provide this as a free service (with the hope that you will buy their full version) as well as free updated virus definitions. You can also try MacAfee or Norton AntiVirus software for around $60.

One of the strains of the Bagle virus will disguise itself as an email from your own domain. It may be addressed from “support” or “management”. The payload is a zip archive called “information.zip” and provide a password to unlock it. If you’re fooled into opening this zip archive and enter the password… you will be infected. Pretty sneaky, eh!

Generally, if you notice an unusual amount of activity on your computer – it may seem sluggish, there is a lot of activity on the hard drive or network – you may be infected with a virus. Once one computer becomes affected, the other computer and servers on your network can also be affected. Certain viruses can worm their way onto other machines that are not connected to the Internet.

And finally, a note on my favorite annoyance – spam! Spam is quickly outnumbering legitimate messages. I discovered a free spam scanner, called PostArmor which I use on my Mac. This great program is written in java, so that it can run on several platforms, Windows, Macintosh OS 8.6 – 9 and Mac OS X. The program sits on your machine and gets your email from the mail server. Then it lists the suspicious messages and passes the “good” email through. You have 24 hours to look at the list after which the spam is automatically deleted. You can run PostArmor on one address and pay a fee to use it on multiple addresses.