“FREE Digital Camera, FREE IPod, FREE Screensavers, FREE Games….. Is there a theme here? Yes, and it’s called The Risks of “FREE”. Oh , I must say I still get a little excited at the prospect of something for free. When I was a child growing up free meant just that something given without additional charge or strings attached. Of course I’m probably dating myself but when you went to the gas station and they offered a free glass with fill-up, you actually got the free glass. Based on the new Internet definition of “FREE” that same gas station experience would be something like this – You would fill your tank and in order to get the free glass you would have to fill out a 10 page form, agree to let them send you tons of mail and then your car would start stalling out the moment you drove away from the gas station, the glass would probably break into a thousand pieces within seconds as well.
In today’s world “FREE” has taken on a new meaning it means I’ll give you something but I am going to take something from you and generally what I take from you is worth more than what I am giving you. A few years ago there was a promotion where a company would “GIVE” you a computer in exchange for some marketing information. This is what it turned out to be in actuality – First you filled out an extensive questionnaire (later some researchers valued the data collected in each of those questionnaire’s at the equivalent of $10,000.00, yes ten thousand dollars each) once they received the questionnaire they would ship a low end computer with monitor to you (retail value was approx. $800.00). Once you turned it on you had to make sure it connected to the Internet (so it could collect and display ads on “your” “free” computer). The computer was designed to consume 20% of the actual monitor viewing area with advertising, directed towards you based largely in part on the questionnaire you had completed. The so called “FREE” computer actually cost you $10,000.00 worth of personal data, residual advertising blasting, and a reduction in the actual viewable area you could use to work on the computer – all in exchange for something worth $800.00 or less. Ironically at that time you could have bought an “e-Machine” computer for a little less, mind you we were never fond of the “E-Machines”, but you would still have had a better computer than what you had been “GIVEN”.
My point here is to really beware of those things marketed and advertised as “FREE”. Some of the best things that truly are free are usually not touted – you actually have to really work to seek them out. Now the skeptic out there might be saying “What do you care?” – In fact were we as sneaky as those promoting the “FREE” programs I not only wouldn’t be writing this piece but I would probably encourage you to collect all this “FREE” stuff. We prefer our customers enjoy their computing experience in as trouble-free an environment as possible.
The majority of these “FREE” programs come with what has been termed as either “Spy-ware” or “Ad-Ware”. The use of the ending ” ware ” is related to softWARE and the beginning is the type of software. Both Spy-ware and Ad-ware are programs that come packaged along with the free screensavers, games, Internet speed boosters, etc. Spy-ware is actually a program that gets installed in the background (relatively undetectable, visibly, but drains your computers performance) and it spends its life collecting data from your computer (such as what programs you used, samples words from typing you do on the computer, some collect email addresses from your address book for spamming purposes) it then compiles a report and submits this report, via your Internet connection, to the marketing company behind the Spyware. Adware actually pushes data (via annoying pop-ups) onto your computer and in many cases makes it virtually impossible to use your computer.
WIVES, no your husband did not just become a twisted sex pervert. HUSBANDS, your wife did not take up raunchy online porn as a way to pass her time, PARENTS, your kids did not instantly develop into depraved sex addicts. If you recently noticed a sordid collection of “Favorites” in your Internet browser, chances are it was one of these Ad-ware programs that planted all this stuff there. You might ask WHY? and that’s a great question. Did you know that the majority of porn sites and online gaming sites actually pay the producers of the pop-ups a penny or more per pop-up to get people there? With that kind of motivation you can see why you might be bombarded by pop-ups.
“How did we get these things, we didn’t download any free programs?” Granted you may not have intentionally downloaded these items but here are a number of ways you can get these items installed onto your computer:
SCENARIO – A pop-up shows and says “Your Internet Connection is Slow – We Can Speed It Up”. Now you try to click on the “No” option or the “X” in the upper right corner but in doing so you actually have just installed the Spy-Ware or Ad-Ware.
SOLUTION – First off, they don’t know the speed of your connection they are just trying to catch your attention. The best way to exit that box is to right click on all the open “Internet Explorer” boxes located in the lower bar of your computer (referred to as the system tray) and select the “Close” option.
SCENARIO – Pop-Up says “Your Computer is infected with Spy-ware – Click here to eliminate it”. Again you try to click on the “No” option or the “X” in the upper right corner but in doing so you actually have just installed the Spy-Ware or Ad-Ware.
SOLUTION – First-off they do not know if you have Spy-ware or not, again, they are just trying to catch your eye. The best way to exit that box is to right click on all the open “Internet Explorer” boxes located in the lower bar of your computer (referred to as the system tray) and select the “Close” option.
SCENARIO – Box Pop-up “YOU ARE A WINNER……Click here to claim your prize” Again you try to click on the “No” option or the “X” in the upper right corner but in doing so you actually have just installed the Spy-Ware or Ad-Ware.
SOLUTION – Well I must say while all our customers are Winners in our eyes when that particular message appears you are not a winner, unless you consider getting your computer all messed up a prize. The best way to exit that box is to right click on all the open “Internet Explorer” boxes located in the lower bar of your computer (referred to as the system tray) and select the “Close” option. Additionally refer to the section below about removing and maintaining a spy-ware free computer environment.
SCENARIO – Children (perhaps adults as well) like to download music and movies without paying for them. File sharing programs, such as Kazaa, WinMX, Napster carry a Spy-ware payload – That is, once installed the Spy-ware gets installed as well.
SOLUTION – It is best not to install these programs at all, not only do they bring spyware but they also open portals into your computer, circumventing any firewalls you may have in place, and allow others to manipulate and mess up your computer. Unfortunately uninstalling the program does not remove the Spy-war so follow are directions below about removing and maintaining a spy-ware free computer environment.
Additionally if there is any doubt as to the validity of a certain pop-up claim or email, etc. feel free to call on us and we will help you sort it out.
Removing and maintaining a spy-ware free computer environment
We strongly recommend a terrific product from the folks at Lavasoft. Their Ad-Aware SE is a great product and you can download the personal edition for free as long as it is used in a non-commercial setting.
We recommend that you run this program at least once a week, making sure to always update the program before running it’s scan.
The makers of Ad-Aware make an excellent product that operates in a pro-active manner and they charge a nominal fee for that version of their software.
Unfortunately, since Spy-Ware and Ad-Ware are not technically viruses, most Anti-Virus software is legally not allowed to interfere with its operation and therefore many Antivirus products WILL NOT remove or prevent Spy-ware.
Do not fall into the traps of the above “Scenario’s” and you should be ok. With all this in mind you can now proceed to a more peaceful computing environment.
Remember, the computer is the one appliance in our homes and offices that can do more things simultaneously than any other appliance. Use it well and enjoy!.
Eagle Feather Enterprises, Inc.