Adware - Spyware, the Bad Guys
(2004) - Microsoft's attempt to
convert your PC's screen to an advertising billboard with their
beta XP version several years ago, seems to have started us down
this slippery slide. Although the outcry prevented Microsoft
from pursuing this concept, a whole host of other less
scrupulous concerns took the opening to an entirely new level. Adware and Spyware is now considered as big a threat, if not
bigger, than viruses and spam.
What most folks don't realize about this problem, is that it is
possible to infect your computer just by installing that cool
freebee software that came with your latest hardware accessory like a
webcam, APS, or IM application. Several of my customers have had
their computers rendered unusable, including one of my own, due
to the Bad Guys.
And now a Good Guy has come to the rescue. AP is reporting that
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has entered the fray,
suing the Internet marketing company Intermix Media Inc.
"Spyware and adware are more than an annoyance," Spitzer
said. "These fraudulent programs foul machines, undermine
productivity and in many cases frustrate consumers' efforts to
remove them from their computers. These issues can serve to be a
hindrance to the growth of e-commerce."
Barbarians at the Digital Gate
Last September (2004), the
ran an article entitled "Barbarians at the Digital Gate",
which described the business model used by Spyware and Adware
agents. The Barbarians, are a growing group of people who
get paid to think of clever ways to force you to view an
arbitrary advertisement on your computer screen. And for a
growing number of Internet users, these advertisements have no
It had never occurred to me that you could actually make money
by hijacking someone's home page, or by displaying
advertisements so poorly placed, that the click through rates
are nil. Could this be the Internet's version of Telcom
Roger Abbott in the Telcom Hall of Shame)
If my experiences over the last month are any indication, it
would appear that the Barbarians are now even more
savage, engaged in asymmetric warfare. It is becoming harder to
detect and stop the acts of trespass. So difficult, in fact,
that most folks are forced to put up with it. (or switch to
I too, over the last six months (2004), had noticed my computer was
taking longer and longer to boot. Since I run a good firewall
with virus protection, keep up-to-date with all Windows security
releases and periodically scan my system with the likes of SpyBot and Ad-Aware, I thought I was on top of the game. But
then this IE window started appearing, urging me to click on it
for a free screen saver.
My logs indicated that my machine was making a request to
ads1.revenue.net, which then generated a request to
that displayed the ad. Another request to fccsd.com usually
followed an IE exit, which displays a poorly constructed page of
links offering some form of search.
I was able to write a few firewall rules to help track down the
sources, with surprising results. Both the Logitech Desk
Messenger and the APC applications were contacting
domainsponsors.com during boot up. Neither app is useful, so
bye-bye. I also caught the Microsoft scheduler making a similar
request over the network. Something else in my startup sequence?
Then there is IE, where I found an annoying .dll that was
loading, apparently with the specific intent of generating a
request from the comfort of a so called Trusted Zone, thereby
bypassing the firewall. You have to draw a line somewhere. For
me, that line was crossed long ago. So I decided to research the
A website called the "Domain Name Journal" has a
positive slant on domainsponsors.com which is run by Oversee.net.
Great pictures of the building where their office space is
located! In this made for investors PR article, Oversee.net claims
to deliver targeted Internet traffic to it's customers by
recycling parked domain names. A silver bullet.
Others, including myself, are not impressed. Karsten M. Self is
no fan of spyware and he has reason to
rant. In fact, Karsten characterizes domainsponsor.com as
the "really bad guys". He even includes a link to
Investors Supporting Spyware by
at Harvard University, who researches legal and technical
issues concerning adware and spyware.
A Means to an End?
Sometimes in life we ask questions without considering whether
the question has meaning. So it is, with my question, "Has some
Internet advertising become the End"? In the case
of my recent tussle with domainsponsors.com, there is no
redeeming means to an end in a traditional advertising sense. No
intrigue, no building of a slippery slide.
Perhaps the barbarians have effectively disguised the product.
What purpose does generating millions of useless ads serve, but
to fill up some of that excess telcom capacity built up during
the dot com bubble.
Hard to say. What I can say is, "Look Mom, no more ads!"
The arrival of SP4 for WIN2K and NIS2005 and successful
installation thereof put an end to the apparent corruption of
the Windows system internals caused by the Adware trespassers.
Microsoft has been extremely helpful, having a tech rep stay in
constant touch during the upgrade, at no charge. My guess
is Microsoft is more than a little ticked over the whole matter.
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