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March 8, 2002

Well here it is. The very first Spyware Weekly! What do you think? Find a problem or a glitch? Have a suggestion or a complaint? and let me know about it. .

Have you had a run in with a nasty piece of spyware? Has your privacy been violated? your story and get it published here!


This has been a busy couple of weeks as I'm sure some of you have noticed. SpywareInfo just changed web hosts. The site is now located on a server that has a rock solid connection to the internet, so pages should no longer load at a snail's pace. Towards the end there, I thought the other server was on a dial up connection. Bleah!

We have just opened up a message board support forum. I didn't mind answering the emails that were coming in asking questions about this and that, but it was becoming a major distraction to say the least. The support forums are a much better place to ask questions, as there will be more than just me available to answer them.

We have installed two quick, simple online tests to check for the presence of spyware on your computer. One uses ActiveX to check for TopText/Ezula and Surf+. The other uses javascript to check for several of the most common spyware applications. Run the tests yourself! Please give the page a moment to fully load.

The survey that has been a seemingly permanent fixture of our announcement section is finally ready. The survey is a short series of questions about firewalls and antivirus/antitrojan software/hardware that shouldn't take long at all to answer. The survey is being hosted on Tripod since it was easier to do a survey with their system. Unfortunately, there will be plenty of popups, popunders, and cookies to go around. Excellent way to test your adblocking software if nothing else. ;-)

Click here to take the survey.


SpywareInfo is now mirroring Pacman's startup programs list made famous in the Lockergnome and Langalist newsletters.

This list is enormously useful in that it shows a description of literally hundreds of programs that may be set to load at Windows startup. Using this list makes it easy to find out what that mysterious startup program is and lets you decide whether or not to let it continue to start up each time.

Here are the URLs:
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/startup_index.htm - the "frames" version of the main page
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/startup_content.htm - the non-framed version of the main page
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/startup_full.htm - the full list in HTML format
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/downloads/startups_full.zip - the zipped version of the full list
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/downloads/startups.exe - the self-executable

This list is usually updated every Thursday on the pacs-portal site, and should be updated at SpywareInfo late Thursday or early Friday morning.


The Weekly Hack

I think the web site is best known for it's Hijacked! article than for anything else. Well there's a pretty common hijack that's carried out all the time, and the most prolific perpetrators of this one are ISPs believe it or not.

You sign up with a new ISP and they hand you a disk that will install all the settings to make your dialup networking dial them up properly and to make your email client look for the right mail server. That's not all this disk does. More often than not, it puts your ISP's name on Internet Explorer's title bar. You may even find it on the title bar for Outlook Express as well. Grrrrrrrr!

Here's how you fix that:
Start menu > Run command > type REGEDIT and press enter. Navigate the folders on the left until you get to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Internet Explorer\ Main. On the right, scroll down to WindowTitle and delete that entry. If you have a title bar in Outlook Express you'd like to get rid of, scroll down on the left until you get to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Outlook Express\ and do the same thing. Close all open IE and OE (if you changed anything for OE) windows and reopen them. That little annoyance should be fixed.


Download

http://home.earthlink.net/~rmbox/Reticulated/Toys.html

It's one thing to be able to look up what programs you have loading at startup. It's another to show this to someone. Here's a little product that I stumbled across the other day that generates a text file of every single program that loads at startup on your computer. This is a very useful tool that has many possible functions, particularly for those (like myself) who find themselves doing what amounts to tech support over the internet.


In the News

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2002/03/06/libraries/index_np.html

He knows what you've been checking out The USA PATRIOT act gives the government broad new powers to seize library and bookstore records -- and prevents librarians and booksellers from complaining.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1820000/1820199.stm

Extensive snooping laws could put internet service providers out of business, an expert has warned.


http://www.techtv.com/screensavers/answerstips/story/0,24330,3374542,00.html

When you think of spam, you normally think about those annoying unsolicited email messages you receive in your inbox. But there's a new form of spam that's coming your way and you don't need to have an email account, chat client, or Web browser to receive it. All you need in order to be spammed is Windows XP, 2000, or NT and an Internet connection.


http://www.nbc5.com/target5/1286640/detail.html

"I heard the lady discussing her illness," he said. "I heard some advising to not disclose the sale of a car in their income tax because, 'If we get caught, we can pretend we missed it.'"


http://www.interhack.net/pubs/pcfriendly/

Numerous DVD titles from major movie producers between 1996 and 2000 come enabled with ``PCFriendly,'' an application developed by InterActual Technologies that tracks DVD usage. The system is designed to identify users persistently, without using an HTTP cookie, thus bypassing any privacy-enhancing technologies like cookie management software or browser configurations. The identifying token is persistent through product registration and PCFriendly use.


http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,87084,tk,dn030102X,00.asp

... prosecutors kept specific details about the logger secret by successfully invoking the Classified Information Protection Act. They asserted that the government has a compelling national security interest in keeping the technical details of the system from public view.


http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,86643,tk,dn022702X,00.asp

A cybersecurity bill that would protect ISPs from liability when reporting a potential threat was approved by a subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.


http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i25/25a03101.htm

Opening student computer files without their permission. Reporting on the library books checked out by a graduate student. Collecting data on who on campus is sending e-mail to whom. To many college technology and library officials, these sound like invasions of privacy that are antithetical to the traditions of academe.


The most current edition will always be available online at http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/