Backing Up Your Anti-Spyware Advice

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Undoubtedly, “how-to articles” have emerged as their subgenre of writing. These types of articles are prevalent, with topics ranging from the every day to the extremely specific (such as “How to Write a How-To Article”). Web pages with titles like “10 Steps to Protect Your PC from Spyware” (or any other even or odd number) or “How to Forget About Spyware For Good” are ubiquitous. Don’t think I’m being snarky because I’m not; these articles are fantastic resources. Each one provides helpful advice on how to avoid being infected by malware. But…

A typical how-to article is brief and to the point, leaving out any details that aren’t strictly necessary. Because it is a guide, it should include a straightforward plan for carrying it out. Some crucial information will have to be left out for concision. Let’s rummage through the author’s “trash bin” and see what was discarded so cavalierly (possibly without foundation)!

 

One hint: describe spyware.

 

The first step in implementing adequate “anti-spyware protection” is to define the threats you’re trying to avert. There is no such thing as foolproof safety, unfortunately. And…

 

Aren’t you confused by the statement “there is no such thing as spyware in itself”? You probably are, and Kaspersky has recently echoed that sentiment. According to Kaspersky, “the term spyware is a marketing gimmick,” as he stated in the company’s weblog on March 3, 2005. To “divide and conquer” new phony security solutions from established ones and to “drive almost zero-value products into the security market.”

 

Although versions of this quotation (sometimes severely abridged and taken out of context) can be found all over the Internet, it is highly recommended that you read the original posting at http://www.viruslist.com/en/Weblog?Weblogid=156679222 to get the whole picture.

 

Defining “spyware” has been fraught with debate and ambiguity. In part, Eugeny Kaspersky is correct when he says marketers are to blame for the term’s creation. Yet only in part.

 

As a trained expert, he categorized several types of dangerous software based on their structure and characteristics, and “spyware” does not belong in this categorization because it is too general.

 

Marketers and journalists, on the other hand, required an expressive, simple word to name preexisting (!) information-stealing applications to instruct users (who may not be as well-versed in software as its developers) on safeguarding their devices.

 

Then, how should we define “spyware”? The word “spyware” describes any program that secretly collects user data and sends it to a third party without the user’s knowledge or consent. Many additional apps, especially those distributed as freeware or shareware, contain spyware applications.

 

This phrase, therefore, is quite broad and does not accurately describe the makeup of this type of program. After all, it’s just a catchy name for data-stealing software.

 

Spyware, as we know it today, has been around for a long time, according to Kaspersky. Yes, actually. Those who disagree? The first reports of Trojans that steal passwords date back to 1996. However, there has been an uptick in the prevalence of the most harmful data-stealing software. In 2004, ISP Earthlink and antivirus software company Webroot conducted a year-long Spy Audit survey, revealing that 16.48% of all examined consumer PCs had a system monitor and 16.69% contained a Trojan.

 

Another unfortunate reality is that some dishonest manufacturers are capitalizing on the situation. Many goods on the market today are malicious, ineffective, or install unwanted adware. The list at http://www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm is one such resource. But if you claim that about all anti-spyware programs, you’re wrong. To put it plainly, it’s excessive.

 

Second Clue: Have We Made Too Many Promises We Can’t Keep?

 

These days, you can find many anti-spyware applications available for download. The typical consumer might get lost in the sea of spyware removal resources available today. It would have been simple if all the advertisements were accurate. It’s not like that at all.

 

Spyware removal software and virus scanners have a lot of standard features. Signature bases determine (and limit) the effectiveness of most anti-spyware applications. More code clips (or signatures) in the database imply more spyware programs can be identified, improving the program’s efficiency. Any spyware not included in the signature database will continue to operate undetected and unchecked.

 

Thus, despite what specific packages’ advertisements may lead you to believe, virtually all signature-based software is essentially the same. They all use the same “match pattern,” the only variable being the number of signatures.

 

Can we draw any conclusions from this? Whether it’s an anti-spyware or anti-virus program, a more extensive signature base indicates more reliability. Choose a product from a large firm that can invest heavily in research and development if the software uses a signature-based authentication system.

 

Another thing we can deduce is that consumers continue to put their trust in such software even if it isn’t kept up-to-date, even though it poses a security risk to their computers. Anti-spyware manufacturers are continually playing catch-up with the constant stream of new spyware. This competition has happened since the first harmful programs arrived, and it’s hard to determine when it will finish.

 

Currently, Alexandra Gamanenko is employed by Raytown Corporation, LLC, a software development firm that operates independently. The company’s software doesn’t require a signature database. The cutting-edge technology it employs can prevent data theft at its source by rendering methods like keylogging, screen capture, and the like useless. Visit the company’s website to find out more:

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