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Monday, June 12, 2006

Spyware explodes as virus writing declines

A survey from the Aladdin eSafe Business Unit reports that spyware has increased by 213 percent last year. This possibly reflects a change by malware programmers to more lucrative forms of programming. The study also shows that Trojans, standalone programs that make certain areas of your computer exposed to other Internet users, increased by 142 percent.

This is in contrast to viruses and worms that grew only by 47 percent over last year. The change of focus to spyware is increasingly important to Internet users as the software exposes critical information from computers. Behind this increase in spyware and trojans is a concentrated effort by criminals to steal identities and data.

An earlier study by Alladin estimated that 15 percent of all spyware are designed to steal passwords and log keystrokes. So what can we do? Some might say the most efficient solution is to stay off the Internet, but for many people that isn't an option.

The only other option is to get smart about spyware and malware. A group of MIT grads in San Francisco have teamed up to create a large database of sites that either have executables with spyware/adware or start spamming you with e-mail once you give them yours. They have integrated the database into extensions for Firefox and Internet Explorer so you can stay somewhat safe while browsing the internet.

McAfee, a popular antivirus and antispyware software manufacturer has performed a study on how safe results from major search engines are. All major search engines returned risky sites in their search results for popular keywords. They found that MSN search had the lowest percentage (3.9%) of dangerous sites while Ask search had the highest (6.1%) (Google was in between with 5.3%).

Some users have offered up their suggestions to avoid being attacked. One user on Digg simply stated:

  1. Don't use IE
  2. Don't put your email places, just because your going to win a free PSP

Two great suggestions that at their essence tells users to be careful of what software they use and to safeguard their private information. While an email is meant for people to contact you, you shouldn't go plastering it everywhere because it may get into the wrong hands.

In addition to changing your behavior, there are some decent tools (AdAware, Spybot, Windows Defender, ...) out there to protect you from spyware and help you remove it. My personal choice is AdAware, one of the first antispyware programs ever released. CNet reviewed and tested antispyware software and ranked number one in overall performance.

Another line of defense is to make sure you have popup blocker enabled on your web browser. Here are tutorials for IE and Firefox. Popup blockers can interfere with the functionality of some sites.

If you're still having trouble with spyware or want to learn more check out Google, just be careful what you click on it might install more spyware.


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