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January 15, 2003

Javacool Software Releases SpywareGuard

Many people wonder why their anti-virus and anti-trojan software won't detect spyware. It certainly seems like this sort of sneaky, backdoor-installed program should be a perfect target. However, except in a very few cases, anti-virus and anti-trojan products generally leave spyware alone.

Personally, I agree with that. The purpose of a virus is to spread itself from computer to computer and to do whatever damage to it the writer decides he wants it to do. The purpose of a trojan is to give the distributor of the trojan access to your computer which you would not normally grant. Spyware, while it is a violation of your computer, is not intended to be malicious in nature. It may be buggy and it may crash your browser if it's badly written, but the purpose of spyware is not to cause damage. Browser hijackers do cause a certain amount of damage, and many AV/AT products do target a number of those.

Now there is a program which acts like an anti-virus, protecting your system from installations of spyware and browser hijackers. SpywareGuard provides a real-time protection solution against spyware that is a great addition to SpywareBlaster's protection method.

An anti-virus program scans files before you open them and prevents execution if a virus is detected - SpywareGuard does the same thing, but for spyware! And you can easily have an anti-virus program running alongside SpywareGuard.

Features Listing:
  • Fast scanning engine
  • Scans exe and cab files - the two most popular file types for distributing spyware
  • Signature-based scanning - for known spyware
  • Heuristic/generic detection capabilities - some spyware programs can be detected even if the code undergoes significant changes
  • Small size - with a small size and small definition sizes, download and updates are quick
  • SG Control Panel - provides easy access to help and integration options
  • SG LiveUpdate - provides an easy updating solution
  • Spyware files are blocked before being opened or run - they are not simply shut down after they are loaded in memory (and after they have performed their tasks)
  • The full path to the spyware executable is provided on the alert screen
  • Once a spyware file is detected and blocked from running, the options are provided to either continue or to delete the spyware file
  • It's a free download

SpywareGuard currently guards against variants of the following items in either EXE or CAB scanning (or both):

Definitions 1/14/03:

AdBreak, AdultLinks/LinkZZ, AdultLinks/QcBar, Brilliant Digital, CommonName, Cytron, DV, FreeScratchAndWin, FriendGreetings, HighTraffic, HotBar IE Installer, HotBar Netscape Installer, IEAccess2, IEDisco, iGetNet, Lop.com, MoneyTree Dialer, MS7531 Browser Hijacker Trojan, NetZany, UCmore, UKVideo2, VLoading, WinAD, WorkPlaceCrush, Xupiter, and more!

This definition list is being added to constantly. Since the program was released just a few days ago, there have already been two or three definition updates and this developer is on my private mailing list which I send to many spyware removal companies when we find new targets at the forums.

It should be noted that there is an odd glitch if you happen to be running TDS-3 Anti-trojan software minimized in the system tray. For some reason, it crashes SpywareGuard. The reason for this is unknown, but it is being worked on. To fix this, rename "spywareguardcp.exe" to "sgcontrolpanel.exe"... and then change the shortcuts in your Start Menu (the "StartUp" and "SpywareGuard" folders) to the new filename.

This product is free, although the author asks for a voluntary donation via Paypal. Believe me, with all the spyware, browser hijackers, and drive-by downloaders all over the internet these days, a product like this is well worth a few bucks. I've made my own contribution by offering to host the program at my web site.

http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/downloads/swguard/

SpywareInfo Weekly Feature

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webroot logo

New Window Washer 4.8

This is a product which I have myself, and it is very impressive. You could spend an hour rummaging through your computer deleting your browser cache, cookies, temp files, address bar history, and even those nearly impossible to delete index.dat files. With Windows Washer, you don't have to. Window Washer makes doing these tasks quick and easy. I know a lot of people who I consider to be experts in the area of internet privacy, and many of them use and recommend Window Washer.

What you do online is nobody's business! Take control with Window Washer. Protect your privacy, clean unwanted files and boost PC performance. Download a free trial version today!

Window Washer is the original and most advanced privacy and PC cleaning tool. We invented this software category more than four years ago and since then more than one million customers worldwide have installed Window Washer on their PCs!

Have you downloaded the free trial, but haven't made up your mind to buy it yet? Well here is one more reason to click the purchase button. Buy Window Washer today and save $10. Normally $29.95, Windows Washer is available to SpywareInfo readers for only $19.95! Your purchase is risk-free - satisfaction guaranteed - AND your purchase includes 1 year of technical support and product updates.

DON'T WAIT! - See what more than one million savvy Internet users already know!

To keep all of you readers coming back for more, every week SpywareInfo is offering a special discount on software titles which we believe will help you protect your privacy, clean off spyware, and keep your computer running at full throttle. Rather than listing just another ad, the weekly feature will be a particularly useful program, with a good discount negotiated for visitors to SpywareInfo. You won't find these same discounts anywhere else!

SpywareInfo is also actively searching out companies interested in working with us to present quality software to our readers at a significant discount for this one week period. If your company is interested in participating in this feature, or if you are one of our readers and would like to see a particular product highlighted here, then please contact our Director of Marketing, Ms Catherine Forsythe. We will review the product and approach the developer if the program meets our stringent standards. We thank you for your support. If a software program interests you, please tell your friends and send them here.

Free Giveaway

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We are now approaching 2,000 registered members at the SpywareInfo Support Forums. I'm very excited about having this many people registered, especially considering that registration is not required to post there for help. The place is so busy that I end up spending most of my time online there.

To celebrate this milestone, as soon as SWI forums has its 2000th member, I will randomly select one registered member to receive a fully licensed copy of a very good and very well respected program. As I write this, there are 1,971 members, so this will happen within the next day or two. Registration is free and whatever information you provide during registration will absolutely not be used for anything other than managing your membership at the message boards.

The winner will be announced in next week's issue of this newsletter and at the forums.

http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/yabbse/

PS. Want to see a "beta" version of what the new forums will look as soon as I can convert? Take a look.

The People Have Spoken

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Intuit is feeling the heat from the wave of outrage at their bundling of Macrovision's SafeCast digital rights management software into their TurboTax 2002 software. After hundreds of angry and very negative reviews by users and former users at such places as Amazon.com and Fat Wallet, Intuit is now going to provide an uninstaller for the SafeCast software. TurboTax's own uninstaller does not remove SafeCast, which was a large factor in the anger people had over this. Be aware that removing SafeCast will disable your copy of TurboTax.

Intuit states categorically that this software does not gather information on their users and thus is not spyware. Last week I quoted and linked to a page on Macrovision's web site which said that actually it did gather information about users. I also mentioned that several documents describing SafeCast and its features that had been available at Macrovision's web site for years were suddenly missing. Others had possibly been altered. Well, that page which I linked to has also been altered since the last issue went out.

http://www.macrovision.com/solutions/software/drm/

The newly altered page page now says this:

Using SafeCast, you can:

  • Securely deliver software by electronic download, on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM, or as value-added content on a Video DVD.
  • Accept payments and unlock products via the web and/or by phone, fax or e-mail.
  • Offer products as time-limited trials (with or without "click here to buy"), or on a subscription or rental basis.
  • Require users to activate or register their software before using it.

However, Google's caching service still shows the page as it existed prior to last week's issue of this newsletter. Hurry up and click this link before Google caches this page again and you'll see the difference between this week and last week.

http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/rd/mvisioncache/

Using SafeCast, you can:

  • Securely deliver software by electronic download, on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM, or as value-added content on a Video DVD.
  • Accept payments and unlock products via the web and/or by phone, fax or e-mail.
  • Offer products as time-limited trials (with or without "click here to buy"), or on a subscription or rental basis.
  • Require users to activate or register their software, and gather valuable data on your customer base.

Man, it sure is embarrassing when you want to hide something and people find it anyway.

Let this be a lesson to other developers. SafeCast is off-limits. Learn from Intuit's mistake here. They bundled this software which is so offensive to so many people, and they did it without disclosing it. Worse, they offered no way to remove the offensive software, and their own program's uninstaller wouldn't remove it. Combine that with truly draconian licensing terms and you have a recipe for a mass abandonment of a once popular product.

We've been trying to come up with acceptable alternatives to TurboTax at the forums. Two clear favorites right now seem to be a couple of products called TaxCut and TaxAct.

It's sad and disgusting to read the privacy policies of some of the financial software on the market these days. Taxcut Deluxe is an unacceptable alternative in my opinion. Go to their site and read their privacy policy. Taxcut sells your personal information to all manner of unrelated companies, such as advertisers and insurance companies. I don't recommend Taxcut at all as an alternative to TurboTax. TaxAct seems to be a much friendlier alternative at the moment.

This week, instead of a poll, we're looking for alternatives to TurboTax that

  1. Works as well or better
  2. Does not bundle with spyware
  3. Does not bundle with anything which might disable any computer component (eg. disabling the CD burner)
  4. Does not sell your personal and/or financial information to marketers, spammers, telemarketers, and direct mail marketers the way Taxcut Deluxe and others may do.

If you have a suggestion, please join the discussion. (No registration required)

I also need to issue a correction. I've been saying that this situation involved Quicken, and Quicken's TurboTax 2002. Actually, it is Intuit's TurboTax 2002. Quicken and TurboTax are both products made by Intuit and I had them mixed up.

Ramble

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I have some tragic news this week. Last week, a member of our support forums, whom we all knew as baya, passed away. Her husband was kind enough to come to the forums to let us know the news. baya got a lot of pleasure participating at the forums and spent a lot of time there. She was one of our most popular and well-respected regular members and we're all feeling her loss.

I never had the opportunity to meet baya in person, although she did threaten it once. Last month when I learned that the contractor hired by Direcway to install my satellite internet couldn't find an installer willing to make the 300 mile trip, baya threatened to fly here in a helicopter and personally file a lawsuit against them.

She was a good friend to all of us here and she will be greatly missed.

Goodbye my friend


Last week I said that I'd explain why the newsletter was two days late. The reason for that was that my new ISP, Direcway satellite, had a buggy server somewhere in their data center. According to a source inside Hughes Network, the network vendor called it "an obscure software bug". This bug was patched last week and fixed (hopefully) early Sunday morning.

This "bug" was causing a 30 second delay in all data received from and transmitted to the ISP. Total, complete death of all internet activity until it came back. And it was doing it every few minutes. Arrgghhh!! Take a look for yourself.

I was willing to wait one more week before I started slamming Direcway in front of 150,000 people. They were able to get this problem fixed to my satisfaction late last week and other than one full outage lasting about 20 minutes, I haven't had much problem with it since. A big thanks to a guy I can't name for working behind the scenes to help fix this problem.

If you'd like to look at what my new connection is capable of, take a look at this. As good as that is, I can actually do better. I can get speeds of very nearly 7,000kbps in short bursts lasting about 5 to 10 seconds. That sure beats dialup. Too bad there is so little bandwidth for upload speed. That's hardly better than dialup.


Last week I mentioned that I would be redoing the site to make it a little more professional looking, and that I would be rewriting some of my articles. Good lord what a response I got from that! I got hammered with emails from people saying it was the informal style that keeps people coming back.

Let me rephrase that. ;-)

This newsletter won't be changed at all. Period. What I am going to make more professional looking is the rest of the site, where all of my articles are. I'm also going to be adding more articles to it sooner or later. I'll also be updating some of the existing articles. Those articles get me mentioned and quoted all over the place, and I'd like for them to be as professional looking as possible so that I can get even more of it.

Some of those articles were from the very beginnings of this site, and to be blunt they're not all that well written. One or two of them were little more than me ranting and raving. I have to be careful with that now, because when I rant, well over 100,000 or so people read it. This newsletter now has triple the number of subscribers it had this time last month and it's growing at an astonishing rate. The web site itself is approaching 200,000 visitors per month, and I wouldn't be surprised if it hit a quarter million before tax day (April 15).


Sometime this week or next, I'll be adding an activex spyware scanner to the site to compliment the javascript parasite detection page already there. This activex scanner program was written by the folk who created X-Cleaner Spyware Remover. I'll have it ready hopefully by the next issue.

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