From: Patrick Douglas Crispen
Subject: TOURBUS -- 08 AUG 02 -- SPYWARE / AD-AWARE
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On with the show ...
------- Spyware -------
I'm getting old.
I remember a time when there were only two types of files you could download from the Internet: good files and bad files. The good files were programs, pictures, and documents that pretty much did what programs, pictures, and documents were supposed to do. The bad files were computer programs that contained viruses that both messed up your computer and caused you to spout an endless string of expletives that would cause even a Teamster to blush.
Those halcyon days are behind us. Into the mix of good and bad files has sprouted a new type of file: good computer programs with bad luggage (a.k.a. "spyware.") You install a "good" computer program onto your computer and unbeknownst to you a bad program is also installed, one that gathers information about you and forwards that information to someone else. It's a little like inviting Mother Teresa over to dinner only to discover J. Edgar Hoover is secretly taped to her back.
All kidding aside, our friends at Webopedia.com warn that
Because spyware exists as independent executable programs, they have the ability to monitor keystrokes, scan files on the hard drive, snoop other applications, such as chat programs or word processors, install other spyware programs, read cookies, change the default home page on the Web browser, consistently relaying this information back to the spyware author who will either use it for advertising/marketing purposes or sell the information to another party.
Oh, and because most spyware isn't a virus per se, your antivirus won't provide you with much protection.
So, how can you protect yourself from Spyware? Well, before you install ANY program that you've downloaded from the Internet, take a minute and visit SpyChecker.com at
Just key in the first couple of letters of the name of the program you are about to install -- like "kaz" for "kazaa" -- and press enter or return on your keyboard. If the program (like "Eudora") doesn't contain any known spyware, SpyChecker.com will tell you that no matches were found. If the program (like "Kazaa") *DOES* contain spyware, Spychecker.com will display a five column table showing you:
1. The name of your program.
2. The name of the spyware (a.k.a. "ad company") your program
4. The date your program's installer file was last checked for
spyware. 5. Remarks about your program and its spyware.
In short, SpyChecker.com lets you know that a program contains spyware BEFORE you install it.
But what about killing the spyware already installed on your system? Well, that's where Ad-Aware comes in.
Created by German software company Lavasoft, Ad-aware is a free utility that scans your computer's memory, registry, and hard drives for known spyware. Ad-aware then lets you kill any or all of the spyware that you find hiding on your computer.
The latest version, Ad-aware 5.83, is compatible with Windows 98, 98 SE, NT 4, 2000, ME, and XP. [Unfortunately, I don't know of a spyware killer for either the Mac OS or Windows 95, but I'll try to find one and mention it in a future post.]
You can download Ad-Aware for free from about a gozillion different Internet sites, but your best bet is to download it from Download.com at
Just click on the green "Download Now" button on the left side of the page. The Ad-aware program is rather small (872 Kb), so it should only take 4 minutes to download it on a 28.8 modem and about 2 minutes on a 56K modem.
Installing Ad-aware is a snap. Just double-click on "aaw.exe" and follow the on-screen prompts.
Unfortunately, you're not done yet. You know how your antivirus program is pretty much useless unless you have the latest virus definitions? Well, Ad-aware is the same way. It is useless unless it has the latest spyware definitions.
There are two ways that you can get the latest Ad-aware spyware definitions: the easy way and the somewhat easy way.
The easy way is to download and install a second program called "Lavasoft RefUpdate" that automatically downloads and installs the latest Ad-aware spyware definitions. You can download LavaSoft RefUpdate for free at
Once the file has downloaded, double-click on "refupdate.exe."
The somewhat easy way to get the latest spyware definitions is to download
and then manually extract the file's contents into C:\Program Files\Lavasoft Ad-Aware. Unfortunately, you'll have to do this every time you want to update your spyware definitions.
If I were you, I'd just get the RefUpdate file. It's only 411 Kb, so it should only take a minute or two to download on even the slowest connection.
Now that you have installed Ad-aware, let's use it to kill all of the spyware hiding on your computer.
First, let's get the latest spyware definitions. As I said a moment ago, you can either manually download and extract the sypware definitions to the appropriate directory, or you can let LavaSoft's RefUpdate do it for you. If you choose to do the latter, just go to Start > Programs > Lavasoft Refupdate > RefUpdate 2.0. Then click on the "Connect" button.
RefUpdate will connect to Lavasoft, download and install the latest spyware definitions, and then disconnect. When you're done, close RefUpdate.
The next step is to run Ad-aware. Go to Start > Programs > Lavasoft Ad-aware > Ad-aware.
Using the check boxes on the left side of the screen, tell Ad-aware what parts of your computer you'd like it to scan. (I usually tell Ad-aware to scan everything.) Then click on the "Scan now" button.
The scan will probably take a few minutes to complete, but during that time keep your eye on the bold "new components" line in the summary. That line shows you the number of spyware programs that Ad-aware has found on your computer. I'm willing to bet that the number will absolutely SHOCK you. [Courtney, one of my dearest friends, recently found *122* different spyware programs running on her computer.]
When the scan is complete, click on the "Continue" button in the bottom right of the screen. This takes you to a page that shows you detailed information about all of the spyware programs found on your computer. Put a checkmark next to any or all of the spyware that you would like to remove -- you can right-click and choose "check all" if you want -- and then click on the "Continue" button in the bottom right of the screen.
Ad-aware will ask you if you'd like to remove the selected spyware components from your computer. Click OK.
That's it. You're done. Scan your computer again and you'll see that all of the spyware has been nuked from your system.
And if you ever want to check your system again -- I usually check my system for spyware once a month -- all you have to do is get the latest spyware definitions and then fire up Ad-aware.
I hope this helps!
That's it for today. Have a safe and happy week, and we'll talk again soon! :)