SpywareInfo Home
November 26, 2002

Mail Box Guard - The tool which lets you screen your email on the server before it ever gets to your PC. Fight spam, porn, malware, and obscenity - before it gets into your mailbox. It not only lets you see your mail before you download it, but analyzes waiting messages and rank the risk for you, in four categories: X-rated, Spam, Virus, and Foul Language. A must have for those with overflowing inboxes!

It's rare that someone disgusts me to the point that I want to slam them publicly. Phoenix Technologies, the company behind the Phoenix motherboard BIOS has managed to do just that. Some of you may remember Phoenix Tech from the days when they tried to turn motherboards into hard-coded adware (some would say spyware).

Some weeks ago, the developer for the Phoenix browser posted to the project's message boards that they had been contacted by Phoenix Tech about their use of their "trademark". Apparently Phoenix Tech claims to have trademarked the word "Phoenix".

I emailed Phoenix Tech to ask them under what name and/or number did they have the word "phoenix" registered since I could not find it at the patent office. I asked them what legal actions they intended to take in regards to the Phoenix browser. I asked them what they intended to do about all of these organizations, who also use the word "phoenix". Would you be shocked to discover that they refused to answer?

You might be tempted to laugh this off as the foolishness of an arrogant company run by bunch of jerks. Surely something as utterly stupid as this would be tossed straight out of court, right? Don't be so sure. There are other companies who prey on struggling mom 'n pop businesses by abusing the American court systems. Don't believe me? Then just look at this nonsense.


Last week I wrote about how difficult it is to keep up with the web site because of my being stuck on dialup. To recap, others that I live with keep the telephone tied up for hours on end, leaving me stranded without access to the internet for most of the day and evening. That forces me to put aside one project after another that I'd like to do with the web site, and it keeps me from updating it as frequently as I used to before it became so popular. If you need proof of this, look at the news page and look at the calendar to see how often I update that.

The only way to change this is to get broadband so that I don't need the telephone at all. The only broadband option where I live is satellite, which unfortunately is damned expensive. Thanks to your generous donations and to the commissions I get from the sales of the software you see ads for all over this newsletter, I am able to pay for hosting the web site, which is getting well over 100,000 visitors per month now.

Unfortunately, it doesn't make enough to pay for the cost of getting broadband hooked up. I have resisted the temptation to take up several offers to run advertising on the site. The idea of a third party serving an ad banner (or god forbid, a popup) on my site makes me ill. However, I have to do something, because money is too tight here to get broadband just so I can spend more time on the web site.

I've struck on a compromise. I won't be running third-party ads anywhere on the site. I never will if I can help it. What I'm going to do instead is to pick one piece of software per week, negotiate a nice, fat discount on its price just for visitors to SpywareInfo, then run ads for it for 7 days (until the next newsletter goes out), but all over the site rather than just here in the newsletter. Visitors to the site get a special discount on the software, and the commissions will go to support the upkeep of the site and its editor (me). The companies involved will go for the discount because 100,000 pair of eyes will be looking at an ad for their software.

Please don't worry that the site will start to look like aol or yahoo and be lousy with ads. You're seeing far more ads in this newsletter than you'll see on the main site. I haven't quite made up my mind how to do it yet, but probably it will be a banner at the top and a box ad like you see in the "Featured Software" section below. Most sites that run regular ads are just lousy with them, something which I hope to avoid here.

I am going to start this program off next week. I meant to start with it today, with this issue of the newsletter, but there was an unexpected problem, so I'm holding off. However, I have gone ahead and put a banner (served locally, by me, not a third party) on the main part of the site. The web site got two unexpected and very prominent mentions yesterday and so I decided to jump the gun a little.

I have a marketing specialist that will be searching for software titles to include in this program. We will review the software beforehand (where possible) to make certain that it is a good value. Then, and only then, will we offer it to you at a discount for a one week period. This way I can avoid running ads for a "lemon".

We also want to know which software titles you are interested in. We have a couple picked out already, but ultimately you're the one that will either buy or ignore whatever product is promoted. If there is a program you would like to buy, but the price is too high for you, tell us about it and we'll see if we can work out a discount for it. Please contact Catherine with any suggestions you may have for this new program.


One of the things which I've had to neglect because of the phone being constantly tied up is this very newsletter. I have decided that if nothing else, I will get this newsletter out once a week, no matter how far behind I fall on everything else. I've decided on putting it out on Tuesdays, on the theory that people don't want to deal with email on the weekend, and on Monday they're busy reading the mass of email that piled up at the office. On Tuesday there should be more time to pay attention to it.

Since you're the one's that will be reading it, the decision should really be up to you. What day of the week works best for you? Let me know (you'll need to register to cast a vote).


There has (finally) been an update to the Harvester Project page. There are now instructions for excluding the pages of fake addresses from search engine crawlers with a robots.txt file and also 10 logos for use in linking back to the project. Check it out.

Three random members of The Harvester Project:

The UK Prediction league
Symphosius Cafe
Barndoor Fan Club

Featured Software
Aluria Spyware Eliminator

Aluria's Spyware Eliminator
Author: Aluria software
Latest Version: 1.04
Platform: Windows 9x, ME, NT 4.0, 2K, XP
License: $29.99

Download

 

Spyware, Keyloggers, and Adware are being secretly installed on your computer when you install some programs from the internet. It usually comes from free software. Nothing is ever truly free. Ruthless companies are greedily cashing in on invading your privacy by installing this "scumware". They are getting paid to include scumware on your computer without your knowledge or permission. Some websites can actually install software on your computer without you even knowing it. These programs record what you type, where you go, what you buy and they can even capture screenshots of your computer. They are then transmitted secretly via the internet to the perpetrators without your knowledge or permission. Frightened? You should be as this can include your usernames, passwords, credit card numbers and more things than you care to know. This has been going on for years now right under your nose, secretly. They are worse than viruses. The scariest part is, it is legal.

Your privacy is being invaded. What you are doing on your computer is being watched right now. There are companies that know you are looking at this page. They know what you typed to your family, friends and coworkers. They know what you are emailing to people. They watch your IMs. Hackers are watching to capture your credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information. The online world is no longer safe. UNTIL NOW.

Aluria's Spyware Eliminator is your only line of defense. Virus software such as Mcafee protects you against viruses. We have developed Aluria's Spyware Eliminator to protect you from the epidemic that is scumware. We scan your computer to detect and remove all known scumware. In addition we constantly scour the web for the newest scumwares and update your software for free. You have virus software. It is not enough. Don't become a victim. Protect yourself from scumware now and download the free trial today.

<Rant>

From Chris Pirillo

I should have spent most of my afternoon in the hospital. It all started when I went to the grocery store to pick up some low-carb bread (which is really tasty, although it doesn't have much of a shelf life). As I was walking down the soup aisle, a can of tomato soup flew off of the shelf and beaned me in the side of the face. As blood started trickling down my cheek and onto my lips, I was able to read the label on the container (which was rolling around on the floor): "Save money if you buy me today!" Fair enough. I kicked it to the side and continued on my journey. By the time I reached the fruit aisle, the bleeding had stopped. I started to search for some spaghetti squash (another low carb treat) when I found myself sailing backwards onto the cold, hard floor. A stupid cantaloupe had rolled 'neath my boot. It, too, had a sticker on its shell: "Buy me and get another one free!" I didn't ask for the cantaloupe, so I pushed it away and headed to the checkout counter. I'll never shop there again, I swear. Things really started to get interesting on my way home.

I was no less than a twenty feet away from the store when a huge freakin' billboard came crashing into my windshield. I wasn't sure what was going on until I was able to make out the large lettering: "Learn how to drive carefully by taking this course." Ah, fair enough - it had my best interests in mind. I wish more signs would bother to be as invasive. The damage to my car was minimal, but I was still quite shaken (not stirred in the slightest). Trying to conserve energy, I rolled down the window and let the breeze pass through my vehicle. Someone was grilling out tonight - I could smell the charcoal. Steak started to sound good, so I found myself turning around and heading back to the store. That's when a t-bone flew in through the other window and landed on my lap. I was able to brush it off quickly, but now I have this horrible stain on my pants that I won't be able to get out - even if I send it through the washer a few times. In a blink, I was back in the same place that had abused me just ten minutes before. The store's name? The Internet.

Web marketers and advertisers who think they're actually getting better results with their intrusive tactics are deluding themselves, destroying the vehicles which could potentially bring them an audience, and generally making life not worth living online. I used to be dead-set against any type of advertisement blocker, but I'm having to reconsider that position. I understand supporting yourself with sponsors is sometimes a necessity - that's how Lockergnome keeps rolling along. But the day you see a pop-up or pop-under on our site is the day I quit. GnomeTomes have been keeping our head above water during these tougher times, but we still won't crack and force you to fall victim to one of the most heinous business practices of our time. Unsolicited e-mail is just as bad, and if that doesn't stop soon, then opting in to anybody's Inbox will become the norm - not just for newsletters. What I can't understand is why it's still happening? I shouldn't have to carry a shield with me if I'm just walking down the street. This isn't supposed to be a battle. This isn't supposed to be annoying. I'm working on a dummy invoice which I'm going to mail to every Internet company who refuses to play by MY rules. They'll get charged $100 per incident; all checks are payable to ME. If more people did this, perhaps they'd get the picture?

Yours Digitally,
Chris Pirillo

</Rant>

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Free Download

HijackThis
Author: Merijn
Latest Version: 1.8
Platform: Windows 9x, ME, NT 4.0, 2K, XP
Size: 113 KB
License: Free

Download

HijackThis was written by a member of the SpywareInfo support forums and based on our Hijacked! article, but expanded with many other checks against hijacker tricks. It is continually updated to detect and remove new hijacks. It does not target specific programs/URLs, just the methods used by hijackers to force you onto their sites. As a result, false positives are imminent and unless you are sure what you're doing, you should always consult with knowledgable folks (e.g. the forums) before deleting anything.

New in this is version is integration with another program by the same author, StartupList. By clicking on the "config" button and then the "Misc Tools" button, you can run StartupList, which will produce a log of all startup entries, running processes, and downloaded ActiveX objects. These two programs are the tools of choice whenever we troubleshoot some new piece of hijackware at the support forums. With these two priceless programs integrated into one, new browser hijackers are discovered and removed faster and easier than ever.

In the news

http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/11/25/ID.theft/index.html

Three men have been charged with selling people's personal and credit information to criminals who defrauded tens of thousands in what prosecutors called the largest identity theft case to date.

"We know of approximately 30,000 victims -- and the numbers are growing every day -- and of losses that are in the millions and growing every day," U.S. Attorney James Comey said. "In short, with a few keystrokes, these men picked the pockets of tens of thousands of Americans, and in the process, took their identity, stole their money and swiped their security."

More privacy news...

Tips & Tricks

Tip courtesy of the
Windows Guide Network

Restrict Applications Users Can Run (All versions of Windows)

Windows gives the ability to restrict the applications that can be run by users on a workstation.

Open your registry and find the key [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer]

Create a new DWORD value and name it "RestrictRun" set the value to "1" to enable application restrictions or "0" to allow all applications to run.

Then create a new sub-key called [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer\RestrictRun] and define the applications that are allowed. Creating a new string value for each application, named as consecutive numbers, and setting the value to the filename to be allowed (e.g. "regedit.exe").

Restart Windows for the changes to take effect.

WARNING: If you are the person who applies Group Policy, do not apply this restriction to yourself. If applied too broadly, this policy can prevent administrators from running Group Policy or the registry editors. As a result, once applied, you cannot change this policy except by reinstalling Windows.

Registry Settings
User Key:
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer]
System Key: [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer]
Value Name: RestrictRun

Disclaimer: Using this tip to disallow a spyware program from running while still using the host program that installed it is probably a violation of the End User License Agreement for that software. You did read the EULA didn't you?

This disclaimer has been brought to you by the SpywareInfo legal dept. :)

PC World's Super Guide to Keeping Your Privacy - Keep spammers and online snoops out of your PC and make the most out of Windows convoluted security options. Tips include a step-by-step guide to SPAM filtering and a review of four great utilities to keep you safe while online.

Mistaken Identity

From Arielmeadow

I have a little story I'd like to share. I am the webmaster of search-explore.com, which is a personal site I set up for my godsister who is a grad student in Paris.

She recently e-mailed me telling me she was getting a lot of hate mail from people saying they couldn't get her webpage off of their computers. She's not especially computer literate and was very very confused.

I was a bit thrown, too, until I saw the subject line of most of the e-mails she'd receved: RE: search-explorer.

It was then that I realized that my poor godsister's domain just happens to be one letter away from a pretty nasty spyware peddler.

Since that realization, I've been inundated with e-mails from angry search-explorer users who seem to be so angry that they are unable to spell correctly or see that they're writing to the wrong domain. I even got one from a man who went so far as to check the WHOIS information for search-explorer, but accidently typed search-explore into the Verisign search site.

To deal with the issue, first I updated the search-explore.com with the information provided by search-explorer's FAQ on how to uninstall their software, but quickly learned that the FAQ's uninstall information is totally false: it simply doesn't work.

Now I've updated search-explore.com to tell people to download and run Ad Aware, which I'm assuming takes care of the issue. I'm not willing to download search-explorer's product to test and see if Ad Aware really does get rid of it...has anyone had experience with cleaning search-explorer off their machines?

Editor: search-explorer.com distributes a browser toolbar which makes many unwanted changes to the user's settings. This toolbar was at one time distributed by a method known as "drive-by downloading" in which an ActiveX script called by a popup window would automatically install the software. Reportedly the company was planning to stop this practice. It has not been confirmed whether they have stopped the practice or not.

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