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The Spyware Epidemic

The Spyware Epidemic

September 3, 2004
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" Many are not "viruses" per se, and therefore are not detected by virus scanning programs. "

There's nothing like checking out a new site to find that instead of a site, you are opening a spyware bomb. I absolutely hate this and as I am led to understand, most webmasters are in agreement.

Spyware comes in all kinds of nasty little ways, from toolbars to registry rewriting. Most of these evil little installs are a "personalized" form of spam, but in some cases, they are malicious little devils hell-bent to crash your computer's hard drive.

Sadly, with all of the pop ups and self-installs that these things are known for, it's difficult to know when and where you're going to come across these nasty .exe programs. Many are not "viruses" per se, and therefore are not detected by virus scanning programs. Granted, a firewall will help, but nothing is foolproof, and the average Joe Schmoe surfer probably has no idea what a firewall is, much less have one active.

And it's taking a toll on the adult industry. Many surfers see these programs installing themselves and immediately think that the spyware came from an adult site. Those are the surfers who then tell friends about the sites and accuse those sites of having auto-installs. See where this is going?

While there are some unscrupulous webmasters out there who use these auto-install programs for whatever reason, the majority of us wouldn't touch the things with a ten-foot pole. However, those few are making life hell for the rest of us.

Example: I received an email from a customer the other day. I'll share with you the part I liked best.

"…could only have come from your site, because yours is the only site that I am a member of that has porn in it." Nice, right? Folks, I don't even have pop ups on my site. There is nothing that he could have possibly gotten from my site other than what he came there to get.

Auto-install dialers are considered to be a major form of spyware, and if you have them on your site, I would strongly suggest that you fix it. If your site sends surfers to a pop up hell, please fix it, because they're starting to equate pop ups with spyware.

What can we do about these little nuisances? If you're like me, I deal with them very succinctly: I report the site to the hosting company, (which can be found in the whois lookup). Many times, the hosting company will terminate the account. However, since it isn't illegal to auto-install spyware, (which, personally, I think is a crock: to my knowledge, isn't spyware usually malicious?), you may go unheard.

If the webmaster using the auto-install is relatively known in the community, as a last resort you could "out" him on popular message boards. But I suggest very strongly that you at least make an attempt to contact him directly and ask him to remove the spyware that launches from his site. If he ignores you, out him to his hosting company.

One way or another, spyware needs to go. It's slowly taking a toll on our business, and there needs to be something done to prevent loss of our revenue due to these programs. Have we sunk so far as to need to make registry changes to surfers' computers in order to sell a product?

Remember folks, karma is a bitch. One of these days, it'll all come around on those who have invaded the surfer's computer. I am just afraid that the repercussions of karma will affect us as a whole. I'd really like to avoid that if possible.

Take care of yourselves! ~ Tala

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