Anti-Spyware Protection: Behind How-To Tips
There is no doubt that "how-to articles" have become a separate genre. One can find such an article about almost anything; there are even some entitled "How to Write a How-To Article". And, of course, the Web is swarming with the ones like "10 Steps to Protect Your PC from Spyware"(if not 10, any number will do; odd ones like 5,7,9 are most popular) or "How to Forget About Spyware For Good". Please don't accuse me of being sarcastic -- I am not; all these articles by all means are informative and so very useful. They all include really handy tips to protect you from this recently emerged plague called spyware. But?
A typical how-to article is short and snappy, with all unnecessary particulars carefully avoided. An ideal one is a clear scheme of what to do and how (because it is a how-to article). Some essential facts will surely be omitted just for the sake of brevity. Let's look into the author's "trash bin" for info ruthlessly (and maybe baselessly) thrown away.
Hint one: What on earth is spyware?
When you decide to apply "anti-spyware protection", you'd better realize what you want to be protected against. Unfortunately, there is not such thing as complete security. And?
"There is no such thing as spyware in itself"-- you are perplexed, aren't you? I bet you are; what's more, it was Kaspersky who recently expressed this opinion. "The term spyware is basically a marketing gimmick," wrote Kaspersky in the company weblog on March 03, 2005. "Just to separate new ersatz-security products from traditional ones, just to push almost zero-value products to the security market."
This quote (extremely curtailed and out of the context) have already spread all over the Internet, but it is very useful to read the whole posting to see the whole picture, so visit http://www.viruslist.com/en/Weblog?Weblogid=156679222
Few definitions caused so much controversy and confusion as did "spyware". Eugeny Kaspersky blames marketers for having coined this term--and partially he is right. But only partially.
As a professional, he classified various malicious programs according to their structure and characteristics; in this classification there is indeed no place for "spyware", which is too vague term to exactly denote anything with a particular structure.
On the other hand, marketers and journalists needed an expressive, easy-to-remember word to name existing (!) information-stealing programs to tell users (who may be not so versed in software as its developers) how to protect their computers.
What is "spyware" then? Spyware is a commonly used general term for any type of software that gathers personal information about the user without his or her knowledge and transmits it to a destination specified by the author of the program. Spyware applications are frequently bundled in other programs--often freeware or shareware--that can be downloaded from the Internet.
So, the term is very general and doesn't reflect either structure or characteristics of such software. After all, it is only a conventional word for programs that steal information.
According to Kaspersky, programs which are now called spyware, have existed for years. It's true. Who disagrees? Password-stealing Trojans were actually known as far back as in 1996. But it's also true that most dangerous information-stealing programs are on the rise. Spy Audit survey made by ISP Earthlink and Webroot Software (the survey lasted for a whole year 2004) showed--16.48% of all scanned consumer PCs in 2004 had a system-monitor, 16.69% had a Trojan.
Another bitter truth is that some unscrupulous producers now are jumping at the chance of making quick money. There are lots of suspicious, low-performing, or adware-installing products. See, for example, the list at http://www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm But saying that all the dedicated anti-spyware solutions are like that?To put it mildly, it's a bit too much.
Hint Two: Too Many Promises Made -- Is it Possible to Keep them?
There are loads of software programs nowadays created for fighting spyware. An ordinary consumer tends to get lost in plenty of information and lots of products, which are supposed to help him get rid of spyware. If all the advertising claims were true, it would have been easy. In reality it isn't.
Anti- spyware and anti-viruses work almost the same way. The efficiency of most anti-spyware programs is determined (and restricted, too) by signature bases. The more code clips (i.e. signatures) there are in the base, the more effectively the program works - it means the more spyware programs it can identify. Only programs from the signature base are recognized as spyware; all other spy programs will be running unnoticed and unstopped.
So, absolutely all the signature- basis- containing programs are pretty much the same, whatever their ads say. They all rely on the same "match pattern"; the difference is only how many signatures each of them contains.
What conclusion we can make here? The bigger the signature base, the more reliable the product is, no matter whether it is anti-spyware or an anti-virus. If the software applies signature base, it's better to choose a product from a big company, which can afford spending plenty of money on research and updates.
Another conclusion we can make is that all such software without constant updating pretty quickly becomes useless and even dangerous, because users still expect it to protect their PCs. New spyware is constantly being developed, and anti-spyware developers have to catch up with it all the time. This race started when very first malicious programs appeared, and it is impossible to say whether it will ever end.
Alexandra Gamanenko currently works at Raytown Corporation, LLC--an independent software developing company. Software, developed by this company, does not rely on signature bases. Its innovative technology is capable of disabling the very processes of stealing information,such as keylogging, screenshoting, etc.Learn more -- visit the company's website: http://www.anti-keyloggers.com
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