The Spyware That Shagged Me
[Teaser] There may be a spy hiding on your computer, and it’s not a spy that loves you. Find out how to spot spyware and keep from getting shagged. [Teaser]
With spyware’s costing the world billions of dollars in computer damage, identity theft, and time spent removing it, many people have just one question: Who are these people who keep falling for a spy?
Well, I’m here to tell you who these spyware dupes are, or at least some of them.
Yes, I admit it: I harbored spyware on my computer for nearly three months. Yes, I knew it was there. But I thought it was the Roger Moore kind of spyware, the dangerous-in-a-good-way kind of spy, the spy that only hurts the bad guys, the spy that loves you. Instead, it was the Mike Meyers kind of spyware, and it shagged me rotten.
How could I be such a dupe, especially when I, someone who works entirely on the internet, knew that deep down all spyware is ultimately more Austin Powers than James Bond?
How Spyware Shags You Or, Possible Reasons for Me Harboring Spyware on My Computer for Three Months
First, just for fun, let’s look at the theories at why people allow spyware to lurk:
They don’t know they have spyware, plain and simple.
They know they have spyware but don’t know how much trouble it can cause.
They know they have spyware and how much trouble it can cause, but they don’t know how to remove it.
They are chronically lazy, stupid, or just perpetual procrastinators. OK, the terms used aren’t quite that specific, but that’s the general idea.
Why Savvy Web Users Get Shagged Or, The Real Reason I Let Spyware Lurk
So how did the spyware sneak onto my machine? It didn’t have to sneak at all. Technically, at least, I gave my permission for it to be installed, as do millions of others.
It began with an article I’d read about an old film that wasn’t being released for some reason or other, but that had found second life on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. I won’t say which file-sharing software I downloaded to get on this network, but no sooner had I installed it than kazaam! my computer had unwanted software out the kazoo. I later read in a newspaper article that permission to install the spyware was included in the software’s standard license agreement, the little screen filled with text that shows up when you start to install software.
I had come across a couple pieces of the software a few times in the next three months. But every time I tried to uninstall it, it informed me that doing so would disable the file-sharing software. I should have just let the file-sharing software go, but since the little mystery programs hadn’t caused any trouble I could see, I didn’t think it was worth the bother.
Flushing Out the Spies
I finally got rid of the spyware not long ago.
No, I didn’t suddenly discover the spyware, or what is was, or that it was harmful, nor did my lazy, stupid ways correct themselves.
Well, not actually Photoshop. It was a cheaper graphics program, but only slightly less resource-hungry.
My six-month-old Centrino laptop couldn’t run the graphics software and my email software at the same time.
I did a Ctrl-alt-delete to see what other programs might be running quietly out of view. I found a dozen mysterious applications toiling away, sucking up almost a quarter of the system resources not taken by the operating system, anti-virus software, firewall, and other essentials.
A quick scan with an anti-spyware program unmasked the mysterious intruders as the “companion software” installed by the file-sharing program.
My computer has been running fine ever since. Yes, I’m lucky that this spyware was really the adware kind and not the kind that goes searching for credit card numbers. In fact, the file-sharing program claims repeatedly on their homepage that they do not install spyware in any shape or form, since the only spying it does is on your web browsing, in order to serve targeted advertising. But, I’ve learned my lesson: even if a spy only steals your computer resources and not your money, you’re still getting shagged.