Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Abusing Spyware - Are Some Companies Really That Sneaky?

One subject I follow closely in IT is spyware. It represents not only a significant threat to technology and network communications, but also a nascent techno-biological organism. I believe spyware, together with computer viruses, are evidence of true artificial life. They consume resources (electricity, information), exercise survival instincts by resisting deletion, and even reproduce.

Even so, I sure don't want them on my computer. I'll bet most of you don't either. Things like that should be studied in controlled environments, not left to run rampant across the Web.

And yet people are encouraging them. Witness the thorough study done by Mark at Sysinternals:
Sysinternals - The Antispyware Conspiracy

As Mark says in his opening paragraph, there's long been a suspected conspiracy of antivirus companies propagating viruses to stay in business. It seems that some antispyware companies may have picked up on this conspiracy, and are turning it into reality. If so, I find the practice totally distasteful - trying to make money on a completely dishonest series of events.

In a sense, this is like telling a child to go take the wallet someone left on the sidewalk, and bringing it back to you. Spyware does what it does, nothing more. Remove it, it's gone. Manipulate it to make yourself out to be a savior (for a 'small' fee), and you're doubly despicable.

It's because of things like this that I'm instantly distrustful of new anti-spyware programs. I need to read a lot of good reviews before I'll even try one. When people ask me about privacy, or what anti-spyware app to use, I always say three things and three things only: Ad-Aware. Spybot. MS AntiSpyware.

That's it.

Anything else is abusing spyware.

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