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Computer "spyware" is noxious and harmful and must be stopped
as soon as people can figure out exactly what it is....

 9:12 am on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Programs that secretly track computer users' activities are becoming an online scourge rivalling "spam" e-mail and should be outlawed before they prompt consumers to abandon the Internet, members of the Senate communications subcommittee said on Tuesday.




 4:55 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

That would be great. But I think it will be hard with the disclaimer small print that most people overlook when they want to download a seemingly harmless program.

Maybe microsoft will include a spyware removal system on their next Windows for us. :)


 5:06 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Maybe microsoft will include a spyware removal system on their next Windows for us. :)

Would that disable the entire OS? ;)


 5:36 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

If someone can just mandate a one click uninstall for the offending downloaded programs, that would probably take care of most of the problems.


 5:40 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Defining "spyware" is like defining "adult content".

Spyware is only spyware when it is offensive to the person being spied upon. Lots of people use the Google toolbar and call it a "useful utility'.

Lots of people also tell dirty jokes, but wouldn't coin it "adult content".


 6:21 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

As long as downloaded programs had a big red uninstall button (or equivalent) mandated, then that would leave it up to the individual to decide what to do.

I believe that most of the spyware/parasiteware is downloaded without the users knowledge. If they do want the program, then they'll keep it, but if they were tricked or mislead into downloading it, they could easily uninstall it.

Many of the existing programs out there are very difficult to uninstall.

Defining which programs would be required to add the big red uninstall button could be based on complaints by consumers.

If these products really are desired by consumers, then the makers have nothing to worry about.


 8:51 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the majority of average users (AOL users come to mind) have no clue how to uninstall something.


 6:41 am on Mar 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the majority of average users (AOL users come to mind) have no clue how to uninstall something.

Hahahah, that's a good one.

Spyware blows spam out of the water. Cause atleast spam is just annoying, it's not invasion of privacy.


 11:22 pm on Mar 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

There are quite a bunch of very good anti-spayware on the market, most are free.
now using those is more complicated (although it does not look so tough!)than learning to correctly uninstall
any prg.
with one click an un-registry-educated user may possibly "kill" its machine or prepare for some hard times or a full reinstall

before using those, please know your registry.


 11:56 pm on Mar 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I agree, which is why I'm hoping 'The Big Red Uninstall Button' is mandated on all downloaded programs.

; )


 12:18 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

spam email is just an annoyance...but I've had spyware that has prevented IE from launching at all, has hijacked my home page, and has caused a variety of system problems. I think stuff that loads itself deceptively and then overrides the functionality I have chosen for my computer, should be outlawed.


 1:37 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't think any of it should be made "illegal" per say, however I'm all for making disclaimers more clear. It's really all about rights and personal responsibility - one of the biggest problems in the USA is the fact that government "hand holding" has virtually eliminated personal responsibility.

When my wife and I wanted to put in a pool, we were told that it's a law to put a child-safety gate around it. At the time we didn't even have children - but some neighbor's kid could come onto our property (after hopping an 8 foot fence mind you) and drown. Hello? Shouldn't you watch your kid instead of making ME install a gate?

Look at how rampant lawsuits are over the most STUPID things ... burglars trip and hurt themselves while trying to rob you and sue you because they were injured while on your property. Spill hot coffee on your self and sue the fast food chain that served it to you. It's rediculous. What ever happened to people taking responsibility for their own actions? If you trip and fall, it's YOUR fault - watch where you're going next time. If you install spyware on your computer, it's YOUR fault - try actually READING the terms of use that you AGREE TO whenever you install software.

I like the fact that for the most part the Internet isn't controlled by the government with laws & legislation. It's really the last thing we have that isn't, and I want to keep it that way.

So no, I'm not for making spyware illegal because that's just the first step in saying that anything can be banned just because some people are too stupid to READ the terms of use. I don't run anti-virus software, and I've never had a virus, spyware, or any of that crap on my system - ever. I'm smart enough not to get one.

No, I don't develop or endorse spyware or anything like that ... I'm just saying that if we allow the government to make it "illegal" then it's going to open the door for anything ELSE they decide to make illegal. Next they'll say that web stats are intrusive and make those illegal. Then they'll want to wipe out all adult websites (for the record, I do not frequent adult websites but I sure as heck support everyone else's RIGHT to do so if they choose). It's just another form of control that will be disguised as a public service, protecting children, whatever. If we let government legislate ANY OF IT, it's going to give them the OK to expand their definition of what's harmful.

Pay attention to what you're doing, what you're installing, etc. and you won't have to worry about spyware or viruses.


 1:58 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

I agree with your views about freedom and responsibility very much. But my children download something they find that they like...maybe a game..and before I know it I'm losing control of my computer. A porn link suddenly appears on IE.

In contrast, when I download the Google toolbar, I have to CHOOSE between enabling or disabling the ability to send information to Google...you are forced to choose one or the other, or you don't get the toolbar. But usually I get junk on my computer without ever being asked to read any fine print, and you know for sure the kids aren't going to read fine print. Do we all have to become savvy computer experts in order to avoid the clever schemes of spyware programmers? Will we have to instruct our kids to not download ANYTHING, because the internet is an inherently dangerous place?


 2:24 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

A download is not always necessary:


 2:36 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

>>But my children download something they find that they like...maybe a game..and before I know it I'm losing control of my computer. A porn link suddenly appears on IE.

Every parent who has Windows installed on their computer is completely capable of preventing their children from downloading and installing unwanted software. All you have to do is setup a limited account.

The limited account is intended for someone who should be prohibited from changing most computer settings and deleting important files. A user with a limited account:

Cannot install software or hardware, but can access programs that have already been installed on the computer.

Can change his or her account picture and can also create, change, or delete his or her password.

Cannot change his or her account name or account type. A user with a computer administrator account must make these kinds of changes.

Before we start begging the government to come fix all our Internet problems, maybe everyone should spend 5 minutes learning how to use our computers.


 3:30 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

If someone can just mandate a one click uninstall for the offending downloaded programs, that would probably take care of most of the problems.

Unfortunately, I think this would be as about effective as outlawing Spam or a do not Spam list.

As an interesting exercise check out Alexa top one hundred and see how many of these spyware places are in there. Bloody epidemic.


 3:45 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

As an interesting exercise check out Alexa top one hundred and see how many of these spyware places are in there. Bloody epidemic.

This is an interesting thread, but I think that passing laws will just drive a lot of it underground. Some of it may go away, just like some spam email is gone. That only happens when the offenders decide to play by the rules.


 4:52 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

I disagree. I think the only way to handle this is to mandate an EASY one click uninstall. Some people will still be clueless as to how to push the button, but by providing an easy approach, that should eliminate a lot of the problem.


 6:40 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

I say the solution is for microsoft to create a browser that's fast, secure (doesn't allow automatic downloads) and to distribute it.

I hate spyware (especially having to go and remove it cause it's slowing down my computer) and I want to see whoever made each and every one of them slowly either beaten to death by midgets or in prison for atleast 2 years.


 12:34 pm on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

Forgot to say that for years I have been advocating to
build a very low cost machine or get a used one


And use it only for surfing the web and get your emails

If kids do not have a machine of their own..too bad.. But don't use my pro tool.
Again does a young kid need a top-notch machine?
Buy a used one and load RH! :)


 4:22 pm on Mar 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

In order for a one-click uninstall to work, all of the software developers would have to do it voluntarily. A lot of spyware doesn't even HAVE an installer that would create an uninstall routine, it's a single EXE that doesn't need any supporting files.

I also think that a one-click uninstall would hurt the typical dummy that you're trying to protect because they could "accidentally" uninstall software they WANT to use.

It still falls back on personal responsibility - there are security settings and all kinds of things you can do to prevent auto execution, etc. Again, I've never had any problems with any of it because I don't allow ActiveX crap to run in a web page without prompting or download stuff that's not from a recognized location or vendor.

So after giving this some thought, I came up with a relatively simple solution that maybe some of us can get together on if you like the idea. Why not have a website with a database of executable files and a description of what they do. I could write a fairly simple client utility that anyone could download to their system. It would run in the background and search local files once a day, on demand, or whenever and look for new executable files that are on the system that weren't there on the previous scan. It would then take those filenames, byte sizes, version, etc. and send it over to this web-database for verification. The Web DB can determine whether the file is considered "safe" from a recognized vendor, spyware, whatever, and if anything negative pops up it could pop up an alert the user and give them the option to delete the file (and related files) right then.

The software/hardware end of it is simple, I could have a system like this written in a day. The only time consuming part would be keeping the information up to date, watching for spyware, etc. I would want to keep it anonymous (ie; no "registration" process, and not log what users have what files on their system) but when a file comes in that's not recognized by the database it could be flagged so the DB administrators could search for information about the file and determine whether its safe or not.

I dunno, that's just off the top of my head. What do you guys think?


 12:58 pm on Mar 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

Great idea. I'd be willing to consider giving my support to working on such a project. The real difficulty, in my mind, would be to convince people that your product was okay to use. I mean, there's another thread here that's talking about how spam e-mails are now saying "This is not spam," and the first thought that goes through your head is "Yeah, right." So if you develop a program that people are supposed to install, and claim it's to detect and remove spyware, at least some people are going to automatically think that you're trying to pull a fast one and install spyware of your own. Particularly if you don't charge for the program. The key might be to get some good reviews from some respected authorities, and post them on the website.

Would it be possible to write a program that, in addition to what you suggest, would also look at a file before it's ever downloaded, and alert the user if it is in the "Spyware database"? That way it never even gets to their system at all.

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