Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Spyware Jihad

Why? Why not?

There used to be a time when the internet was actually useful.

Yes, believe it or not, my friends, there was once a time when you could use the internet to exchange messages with friends and accomplices (which they call, if you will, “e-mail”) and swap specialized information (which they call, if you will, “pornography”) all over a phone line hooked up between a bunch of computers.
And for a while, it was good. People even figured out how to use the internet to bitch about movies and slander each other anonymously. Then it all went horribly, horribly wrong.

Now, ever since a bunch of idiots got together and decided they could make a buck of this newfangled internet, it’s a jungle out there. It seems like you can’t even log on these days without having to fend off about a billion attempts to infect your computer with viral programs either specifically designed to steal information, or specifically designed to sell you shit. And that’s pretty much the long and short of it.

A recent scan of my dad’s computer, recently, turned up 40 FRICKIN’ INFECTIONS! 40 files, either accepted by the computer as cookies or forcibly inserted into the machine, which have proceeded to hide themselves and become a severe pain in the ass.
There are a few things that the purveyors of adware and spyware like to do. They range from the sinister (stealing personal information, passwords, and making long distance calls over the internet) to the annoying (like BroadcastPC, a program which routinely uploads ads to your Media Player that automatically play – a program that comes compete with an uninstall program that doesn’t work) to the extremely uncalled for (such as homepage hijackers).

But maybe the best way to make money of spyware is to create a program to deal with it. Furthermore, the people who have gotten into this racket have found some unique ways to market their product.

Take, for example, the about:blank buddy, software which they advertise as freeware (open source software), and then, as soon as you’ve scanned your machine, they attempt to sell you the software to eliminate the homepage hijacker file for a convenient $39.95 (which is actually fraud). Now, maybe I’m being a little paranoid, but doesn’t it seem like these people are profiting an awful lot from this one little bug? Hmmmm… I wonder if maybe they have something to do with it…
It seems like there’s a lot of money to be made off of spyware and adware. Type “spyware” into a google search and you will find literally thousands of these programs, most of which you can have at a price.

It seems to me that as long as there are people unscrupulous enough to create adware and spyware, there will be people unscrupulous enough to create adware and spyware just so they can sell you the program to debug it. It’s called “creating the problem”, and it’s a marketing practice that dates back to the ‘20s. This is actually a fairly novel approach to this age-old technique.

I’ve actually come up with a solution of my own to the spyware phenomenon. Someone – wink, wink – with the necessary expertise ought to design a program that, when connected to your web browser as a plug-in, responds to any attempts to install spyware or adware on your machine by transmitting a short-life virus to the source. One that is has such a short life and is so devastating that it will completely thrash the bastard’s computer.

Imagine the glee these people will experience when they restart their systems, go to all the trouble of fixing all the damage the virus has caused, only to be nailed with another – because, of course, they attempted another spyware upload! Poetic justice, if you ask me.

Or maybe, something really bad – wink, wink, nudge, nudge – should be done to the people responsible for these programs. Personally, I’d be satisfied with that.

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