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Spyware Weekly Newsletter > June 3, 2003

Messenger Plus Bundling Lop.com

Many of you may have heard of a program called Patchou's "Messenger Plus". I used it myself once, before I discovered Trillian. Similar to the many front end programs for Internet Explorer (Avant browser, MyIE2, etc), Messenger Plus adds a user interface to Microsoft's MSN Messenger that contains extra features.

Patchou has brought in C2Media as a sponsor and is now bundling their lop.com software into Messenger Plus. For those of you who have never heard of it, lop.com software is classified as a trojan by antivirus vendors and as a browser hijacker by antispyware vendors. You can find plenty of information about it by doing a Google search for lop.com. Just be warned - some of the language used by lop victims will melt your monitor.

No single parasite has caused as many support threads at our message boards as lop.com (although Xupiter comes close). Ad-aware, Spybot, and all other spyware removal programs target several older variants of lop.com. It now comes in a version that is nearly impossible to detect automatically. It uses randomly named files, randomly generated CLSID identifiers, and uses activex installation methods that let them update all of their installers at once.

Before this change, the number of lop.com complaints actually had gone down because it was so easy to remove and could even be blocked beforehand. Since C2Media introduced these new versions that mutate randomly, the number of infections has become larger than ever. The only sure way to be rid of it is to ask for help at the SWI support forums.

Patchou, the developer of Messenger Plus, has issued a statement regarding the complaints he's been receiving due to his new "sponsor". To all of the people who are saying that they won't use his program because of lop.com, he has this to say, "I don't want to be rude but if you boycot version 2.10.36, you're an idiot."

<sarcasm>
Rude? Well gee, what could possibly be "rude" about being called an "idiot" for refusing to install software that sets off trojan alarms in antivirus programs?
</sarcasm>

Whether it makes you an idiot or not, I strongly recommend that everyone stay as far away from Patchou's Messenger Plus as possible. If you have installed it already and now have lop.com's software all over your system, uninstalling Messenger Plus supposedly will also remove lop. If that doesn't work, then please read this FAQ and follow the instructions. We are very experienced at removing this thing and can easily walk you through it.


Links:

http://www.trillian.cc Trillian
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/rd/6 Lop setting off AVG antivirus
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/rd/6 Search Google for lop.com
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/forums/ SWI Forums
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/rd/8 FAQ, how to fix a browser hijack

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TiVo To Sell Customer Data

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California based TiVo, the company that makes digital TV recorders, has announced that it will begin selling the data that it collects about the viewing habits of its more than 700,000 users. TiVo lets users record TV shows and play them back at different times, skip commercials, and even train their TiVo to suggest programming more likely to interest them.

As the TiVo box connects to company servers to download programming information, it also uploads data about what users have watched and how they watched it. They can tell who watched which shows. They can tell which commercials were skipped. They can tell at what point someone got bored and start flipping channels. All of this information would be a gold mine to advertising agencies, and TiVo is about to cash in.

As horrifying as all that sounds to people who prefer to keep their private life private, this is not as big a deal as it sounds. Unless you specifically opt into more detailed statistics gathering, all of the information is anonymous and will not used to identify your specific viewing habits.

If you watch an old rerun of Highlander, all TiVo knows is that someone in your zip code watched it, not that you, specifically, watched it. You can even opt out of that much, if you like, by calling TiVo at 1-877-367-8486 and requesting that they opt you out of all statistical information gathering.

What TiVo is doing is basically the same thing that early advertising spyware programs did. They log how you use the service and then send that information back to the company in order to make the advertisements presented to you more relevant and interesting. The difference between TiVo and the advertising spyware companies is that TiVo is honest and up front about it. TiVo does not simply steal the information by installing trojan-like data mining programs the way Aureate, Conducent, and others did.

On the other hand, I would still be nervous about TiVo collecting the information even if it were anonymous. As I understand it, your viewing information is not stored along with your account's personally identifiable information only because they choose not to do so once they have it. We have only their word that they would never cross reference viewing habits with their users' account numbers.

For that matter, who's to say that if TiVo were ever bought out, the new owner wouldn't just dive right into the data and start putting both sets of information together. That is exactly what DoubleClick tried to do when it bought marketing firm Abacus Direct.

With the information gathered offline about consumers contained in Abacus Direct's database, DoubleClick could have identified anonymous web surfers. It was only after several class action lawsuits were filed and a few states opened investigations that DoubleClick backed down from their plans.

I don't own a TiVo myself, but if I did, probably I would call that number and opt out entirely. Again, the telephone number to opt out of all TiVo statistical information gathering is 1-877-367-8486.


Links:

http://www.tivo.com TiVo web site
http://www.highlander-official.com Official Highlander web site
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/rd/9 DoubleClick and Bank of America

US Government's View of Civil Rights

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There are certain elements of the United States government that view the constitutional rights of Americans as annoying hindrances to be slowly and quietly taken away. Those of you who doubt this should consider the government's opinion of the rights of citizens of other nations, especially when those rights become "inconvenient".

The State Department report on global terrorism for 2002 suggests that while Canada has been helpful in the fight against terrorism, it doesn't spend enough on policing and places too much emphasis on civil liberties.

It says "some U.S. law enforcement officers have expressed concern" about Canadian privacy laws.

The U.S. officers feel those laws, as well as funding levels for law enforcement, "inhibit a fuller and more timely exchange of information and response to requests for assistance," the report says.

"Also, Canadian laws and regulations intended to protect Canadian citizens and landed immigrants from government intrusion sometimes limit the depth of investigations."

Read the rest of this article...

These will be the same people who brought us the US Patriot Act and its proposed sequel. These are the people who have been trying to convince a frightened populace that their rights interfere with the government's ability to maintain their safety. These are the people who claim that the protections of the US Constitution hinder their ability to do whatever they please while investigating whomever they please.

I freely admit that the US Constitution makes a criminal investigation inconvenient. Forcing investigators to follow certain rules is the exact purpose and exact intent of the letter and spirit of the US Constitution. It is supposed to be inconvenient. The power brokers in Washington, D.C. have forgotten this very simple fact, or more likely they hope that you have forgotten it.

You can't kick in someone's door to look for evidence until after you've convinced a judge that the person has the evidence needed. You can't search someone's private property without convincing a judge that it either contains evidence of a crime or is the evidence. You can't arrest someone and force them to incriminate themselves.

Without these rules, you have a tyranny, not a democracy!

The US government is adamant that it will continue to respect the rights of the American people regardless of the language of new and proposed anti-terror laws. How can we possibly be expected to believe that? Just look at the reaction to Canada's adherence to its own privacy protections. Consider the fact that Americans objecting to the power being given to law enforcement are branded as traitors. Consider the words of the US Attorney-General, the man sworn to defend the letter and the spirit of the US Constitution.

"to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve." --John Ashcroft, US Attorney-General

Links:

http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/rd/10 Article about US government's opinion of Canada's privacy rights

Some Victories On The Super DMCA Front

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I and many others in the internet community have been ranting and raving about the new super DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) laws that Hollywood lobbyists have managed to sneak through the backdoor in a few places. Several states have passed these laws and several others are considering doing the same. These super DMCA laws are written by Hollywood attorneys and then passed to greedy legislators along with enough campaign contributions to make sure they present the proposals.

The super DMCA laws that have that have passed already are disguised as updates to existing telecommunication laws. The people pushing these laws claim that they are meant to fight cable piracy. They make it illegal to hide from any communication service provider the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication that utilizes a communication device. While that would seem to relate to cable piracy, it also happens to make the use of firewalls, routers, email encryption, and other commonly used security devices illegal.

If you are a resident of Michigan and are using a NAT router, you are a criminal. Your state has become the laughing stock of the world due to your representatives in Lansing passing these blatantly stupid laws. That is what happens when politicians pay far more attention to lobbyists' money than to the interests of their constituents. I do hope you remember that when the next election is held.

Thankfully, not all politicians are such greedy fools. There are still a few politicians that do seem to remember that they serve their constituents, not the other way around. One such politician is Colorado Governor Bill Owens. Governor Owen vetoed the super DMCA bill that landed on his desk after it was passed by the Colorado legislature. If you live in Colorado, write to your governor and thank him for having some common sense.

Tennessee recently delayed debate on their own super DMCA law after strong protests, as did Oregon. The super DMCA bill in Texas has been delayed until 2005. However, these bills are not dead and will be discussed again soon enough. We must all remain vigilant and not let Hollywood sneak anything else by us.


Links:

http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/rd/4 Colorado rejects super DMCA bill
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/rd/3 Colorado Governor's web site
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/rd/2 Tennessee delays vote on super DMCA bill
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newlsetter/rd/1 Oregon delays vote on super DMCA bill

Sneaky Politics

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A common theme in all of the super DMCA bills floating through state capitals are the attempts by lawmakers to circumvent public debate of those bills.

Florida put its bill on a "fast track" process to speed its movement through the legislature. Tennessee's legislature performed more than one "bait and switch" maneuver, rescheduling debate on the bill in both the senate and house, and at one point even scheduled public debate on the bill to take place in both houses on the same day. Texas actually broke its own law by discussing its bill without a required five day advance notice.

This sort of behavior, more than anything else, should tell you that the people involved desperately wanted to keep this quiet. These laws are so outrageous that the public would never have supported them. However, it is much easier to block the passage of a bill into law than it is to dislodge an existing law already on the books. With that in mind, various dirty tricks were pulled in an attempt to hide these bills from public view until it was too late.

I consider that to be just as dangerous as the laws themselves. It betrays every principle upon which America was founded. Please pardon me if I sound dimwitted or naïve, but it seems to me that if our leaders use secretive, sneak-it-in-the-backdoor tactics to pass legislation so as to avoid strong public opposition to it, it defeats the purpose of having that same public elect those same leaders in the first place.

I strongly hope that the citizens of the states involved are as outraged by their leaders trying to pull a fast one on them as I am. The previous governor of my state did something similar to us a few years ago. With the assistance of the majority party in the legislature (also his party), he snuck in a piece of legislation that made a very drastic change to this state. The public was not given a chance to debate or protest the governor's surprise bill, precisely because everyone knew that the majority of the public did not want that change to happen.

The governor's legislation passed that same day and was soon signed into law. People were outraged at what he did and they let him know what they thought of his betrayal by giving him his walking papers in the very next election.

I hope that my former governor's fate is shared by the legislators who tried to hide these super DMCA bills from their constituents. If we let these people get away with that sort of thing, then we may as well give up our republic and declare someone emperor, for there is no reason to vote for our own leaders if they are going to do an end run around us and ignore our wishes.

Recommend SpywareInfo to a friend

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The privacy policy of the site looks solid and I did ask around if anyone had heard anything bad about it before I signed up for it. You can use their service to recommend SpywareInfo to someone you know at http://www.recommend-it.com/l.z.e?s=881459

Of course, you don't *have* to use RecommendIt's site to send a friend a link to the site. Just sending an email will also do the trick.


Links:

http://www.scotsnewsletter.com Scot Finnie's Newsletter
http://www.langa.com/newsletter.htm The Langalist

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