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January 29, 2003

Lavasoft releases Ad-aware 6 Plus and Professional

http://www.lavasoftsupport.com/index.php?act=ST&f=1&t=2669

Lavasoft has finally announced the release of Ad-aware 6. There are two paid versions being released now, with a freeware version scheduled for release next week.

As promised, Ad-aware 6 is a dramatic improvement over the previous version. It has a much-improved interface, it is far more configurable, supports plugins and other extensions, and from what I hear it has a much faster scanning engine.

It is also more expensive now. Ad-aware Plus 5.x was $15 (USD). Ad-aware Plus 6 is $26.95 (USD) and the pro version is $39.95 (USD).

I haven't tested this new version, so I can't say whether it's worth the new, higher price or not. When the freeware version is released, I'll test it against the Plus version and see how they compare with one another. I won't be testing the Professional version as that really isn't applicable to most home users, and I don't have a network to test it on anyway.

Reghance, an advanced registry editor with built-in integration with Ad-aware, has gone from $12.00 (USD) to $21.95 (USD). Reghance is a great tool, but it is not worth 22 bucks in my opinion. You can buy it bundled with either the Plus or Pro version at a very nice discount that brings it down to below its old price. If you do buy the Plus or Pro version, in my opinion Reghance is worth the extra 9 to 12 bucks (depending on which version of AAW you buy).

Those of you who already own an older copy of Ad-aware Plus, you should receive an email notification about your free upgrade within the week. The upgrade from previous versions will be free as long as you are already registered. If you haven't, contact them and they will try to straighten it out. Just remember to be patient because they will likely be drowning in email for the next several weeks.

Also don't be surprised if the download is very slow. From past experience I can tell you that the bandwidth usage will be phenomenal, so be patient if your download crawls very slowly across the internet. For those who download the free version next week, the bandwidth situation will be even worse. Millions of people will be downloading this program and every mirror will likely be very slow.

The features in the plus version include:

  • Enhanced Data Base
  • Basic command line parameters
  • Standard version plugins and extensions
  • Automated scanning
  • Automated Blocking
  • Plus version plugins and extensions
  • Professional only plugins and extensions
  • Popup Blocking
  • Active X Blocking
  • Browser hijack and IE download Blocking
  • Customizable scanning
  • Ad-watch 3.0 real-time monitor
  • Registry protection
  • Executable file extension protection
  • Improved safety and redundant backups
  • Improved logging capability
  • Free E-mail support
  • Advanced filtering
  • Full featured quarantine support

The professional version is targeted at IT professionals, network administrators, and is for corporate settings where a number of individual workstations need to be protected from spyware.

In addition to the list above, the pro version also sports these features.

  • Printable reports
  • Process Browser
  • Additional command line parameters
  • Additional menu and export options for reports
  • Professional only plugins and extensions
  • Mapped network and ram drive scanning

One feature that has been promised over and over for several months is a built-in reference file update tool. I'm disappointed that this was not listed in Lavasoft's announcement. I hope it was merely overlooked and that there is in fact a built-in update tool now. When I was helping to test the alpha version months ago, there was an interface for the updater. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

For more information, visit Lavasoft's web site. http://www.lavasoft.de/

Featured Product

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TrojanHunter

TrojanHunter

TrojanHunter's creator, Magnus Mischel, on internet security

Many users when first connected to the Internet are not aware of the dangers that come with being online. Of those who are, a great deal ignore basic security practices thinking "it won't happen to me". However, experience tells us that any computer connected to the Internet will be attacked or probed sooner or later. Most likely it will be sooner. The consequences can be devastating unless you are prepared.

The dangers that exist come not only from crackers or script kiddies. They also appear in the form of viruses, trojan horses and worms. Therefore, you need to protect yourself against these threats as well as against crackers.

TrojanHunter searches for and removes trojans on your system. It uses powerful scanning techniques such as file, memory, registry, port and ini-file scanning to locate trojans on your system. Rule files are easily updated with the LiveUpdate utility, and on top of this, the user interface is user-friendly!

TrojanHunter searches for and removes trojans from your system. You have the ability to add custom trojan definitions and detection rules. If you are downloading files from the Internet, you need TrojanHunter!

TrojanHunter is the only anti-trojan system in the world that allows users to view, edit and add their own detection rules!

TrojanHunter is available to SpywareInfo visitors for 20% off the regular price.

Features and purchase information

Data-Mining of Citizens Stalled

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Senate asks balance in Total Information Awareness program that cross-references personal data.

http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,108987,tk,dn012403X,00.asp

Kyle Stock, Medill News Service
Friday, January 24, 2003

WASHINGTON--The government's capacity to mine public and private databases for information on citizens has hit the brakes, by vote of the U.S. Senate.

The Senate vote halts funding and deployment of the Total Information Awareness program, a Department of Defense endeavor passed when Congress created the Department of Homeland Security. It passed unanimously Thursday as an amendment to an omnibus spending bill. Digital Detectives

The Total Information Awareness program seeks to dig personal data from a virtually bottomless pit of information, including commercial databases of medical, financial, and employment records. It would also establish the electronic means to cross-check, filter, and file the exhumed data.

"As originally proposed, the Total Information Awareness program is the most far-reaching government surveillance plan in history," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who introduced the amendment. "The Senate has now said that...there will be checks on the government's ability to snoop on law-abiding Americans."

Keeps Tabs On The Government

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http://www.regulations.gov

Regulations.gov is the U.S. Government web site that makes it easier for you to participate in Federal rulemaking - an essential part of the American democratic process.

On this site, you can find, review, and submit comments on Federal documents that are open for comment and published in the Federal Register, the Government's legal newspaper.

As a member of the public, you can submit comments about these regulations, and have the Government take your views into account.

To find Federal Register documents currently open for comment, please use the GO buttons on the top of every page.

Then, you may use the "Submit a Comment on this Regulation" link to express your opinion on a specific document. Alternatively, you may submit a comment directly to the agency through the PDF or HTML version.

<Rant>

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Friday night was fun wasn't it? Literally half the internet was brought to its knees by the foolishness of tens of thousands of server administrators who have somehow gone at least six months without updating their servers with the necessary security patches.

Yes I know, it was a worm that started the whole mess, but it was these unpatched servers which actually carried out the denial of service attacks. These attacks knocked 5 of the 13 root name servers right off the net. Who is more at fault here? The person(s) who released the worm or the people who allowed their servers to launch these attacks?

The vulnerability that this worm exploits was discovered and patched in July 2002. That's right, there were six months warning about this and yet hundreds of thousands of servers were still not updated for it. There are damned few excuses for someone to have been running an MS SQL server without that patch, especially if it is going to be exposed to the internet.

And what were they doing on the internet in the first place? These were SQL database servers, not web servers, so there was no reason for them to be accessible via the public internet. If there was a need to access them remotely, well, that's what VPN is for.

What possible reason could there be for not applying a patch released six months earlier? Microsoft is largely at fault here. Service Pack 2 for this SQL software did not include this patch, so of course I'm sure there were thousands of people who thought they had installed everything they needed.

There were also surely some people who had either just installed the software or reinstalled it and simply hadn't gotten around to the security updates yet. Of course, those servers should not have been sitting on the internet at all.

Then there are the home users who install this stuff on their personal or home office PCs. Those I can excuse because home users are not usually trained IT professionals.

So what does that leave? People who are trained in networking. People who are put in charge of company servers. People who are responsible for the maintenance and security of these servers. People who should have learned the lessons of Code Red and Nimda. What are left are tens of thousands of sysadmins who should have known better.

Personally, I believe that these people have been grossly negligent and should be held accountable for this mess. After Code Red and Nimda, they should have known better. If you neglect to keep your automobile maintained and your faulty brakes cause a 50-car pile-up on the freeway, who do you think we are going to blame? At the very least, I think the week should end with a lot of pink slips being given out.

I am not the only one who feels this way. Check any message board on Earth where the slammer worm was being discussed. Everyone is saying the same thing. AT&T Internet (attbi.com) agrees as well I hear. An employee of the company has told me that there are plans to distribute notices of violations of terms of service to every customer who participated in the attack. Good.

For those of you who rushed into the data center on Saturday morning and found your server(s) participating in one of the largest denial of service attacks in history, I have a couple of questions I'd like to ask you.

What in the hell is wrong with you? Why were you running that server on the internet if you hadn't completely patched it?

Do us all a favor, please. Pull your server off the internet and patch the damned thing before putting it back online. Or better yet, leave it off. It's a backend database server. There is no need to have it online in the first place. I do not want to share the internet with your servers, and neither does anyone else.

Here is the patch

USE IT

Errrrr.. Let's Read That Again

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A funny thing happened earlier today. There is a web site, http://www.mikeshardware.com/, which has a warning message on its download page. The message warns people about some programs that install spyware. Nice idea, however there was a little mix-up that I had to help clear up. The warning listed Spybot S&D.

Those of you who use Spybot already know this, but for those who don't, let me explain. When you run Spybot for the first time, it shows you a warning message which tells you that removing the spyware component of the program that installed could possibly break cause it to stop working. This is true for KaZaa for example.

The owner of the web site, Michael Chukov, misread the message and got confused. He thought that it was saying that Spybot itself was going to install spyware, and would stop working if it was removed. So he listed Spybot alongside KaZaa and Gator.

This started making the rounds of various bulletin boards and several people contacted me about it. I called the phone number listed on the web site and talked to him. After explaining what the install message was all about, he realized that he'd made a mistake and immediately removed the warning. Not long after that, he listed Spybot on the downloads page explaining the error.

If you see any posts in any newsgroups or message boards talking about this, let them know that it was an honest mistake which was cleared up immediately. The warning has been removed.

Beta Testers Needed

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As mentioned last week, in partnership with Xblock, maker of X-Cleaner Spyware Remover, SpywareInfo is testing a new online spyware scanner. This is an activex application that can quickly scan your PC for spyware right from your browser.

This application is still in beta testing, but so far the results are very good. Since it is still in testing, I won't give out the address just yet. If you'd like to take part in testing it, send me an email and I'll write back with the address.

In the meantime, there is already a javascript parasite detection script available that can detect dozens of unwanted adware and spyware programs. http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/scanner.php

The Price Of Popularity

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Oh man. When I started this site a year ago, I had no idea that it would ever get so popular. Last month there were over 150,000 visitors to this web site. Last week I was interviewed by a reporter from Wired News about Xupiter, and this morning I got the ultimate shocker. Sometime this week, I will be on TechTV's Call For Help TV show, live via telephone, to talk about TurboTax's use of SafeCast copy protection software. The network is TechTV, channel 354 for those with DirecTV. The show is Call For Help, which airs at 3PM Eastern Time. At the moment, I'm not sure which day it will be.

Knowing me, I'll probably get stage fright and make an ass out of myself. :) Hopefully not, but either way it should be pretty cool. Tune in, watch, and listen to my horrible hick accent. ;-)

This causes a problem for me. There is no way the server can handle that sort of traffic. The last time I got a mention on that TV show, the server crashed. Twice. My web host excused it, but it wasn't the first time and it won't be the last time. Since this sort of thing is just going to keep happening, I'm going to have to move the site to a new server with fewer users and which should be able to handle that sort of traffic (hopefully).

Unfortunately, the new server is bloody expensive. It's worth the cost considering what I get. It's apparently a special deal reserved for existing customers whose web site grows to extreme levels of usage like mine has and it comes with some extra perks. With the weekly discount program going as well as it has been, I was hoping I'd never have to come right out and ask for donations again.

Well, this catches me a little short I'm afraid. I thought that all of the big expenses were behind me for a while. I just plopped down $600+ last month for upgraded internet service so that I could spend more time working on the site. About the same time I spent $200 upgrading the site hosting to its current package. I also just spent $700 on something else that I'd rather not talk about. I wasn't expecting this and it's going to cut pretty deeply into what I had saved up.

What can you do to help out with this? I'm glad you asked. There are a couple of ways to help out here. There is of course PayPal. 5, 10, 20 bucks, whatever you want to send through PayPal will be happily accepted. The minimum is $1 and the maximum (for new users) is $2,000. Click here if you'd like to make a PayPal donation. Those of you who have contributed via PayPal or other means in the past, thank you very much and don't worry about doing it again now.

You can also buy this week's featured discount, Trojan Hunter. This is a fantastic program and it's considered by many people in the security biz to be one of the best trojan detection programs on the market.

There are also a number of programs on the downloads page which I get a commission on if you buy it using the links on that page. Any program linked to with bold lettering is something I'm signed up for. Two programs on that page which I really like are Aluria and Web Washer. Both are excellent programs and both have free trials available.

Pretty soon we'll also be selling T-Shirts and caps with the SpywareInfo logo (as soon as we make a logo). I thought it was a silly idea at first, but I've had dozens of people suggest it to me, so I've decided to have a go at it. I draw the line at boxers however. ;-)

In the meantime, for the next week or so, there could be some problems accessing the web site. Most definitely there will be a problem with the forums, because I'll have to shut them down for a few days while I get everything moved over to the new server. Since the file structure will be different, that means there will be a bunch of software that I've installed which will need to be manually reconfigured. That includes the newsletter software, Moveable Type which I use on the News page, the private mailing list which I run for the developers of spyware killers like Aluria and Ad-aware, and also the forums. I may just redirect to the test forums that I installed on a different server until this is taken care of. I hate to lose whatever is posted in the meantime, but at least there will still be a place for people to post.

The next couple of weeks should be real fun.

Yeah right.

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