I grow increasingly frustrated with the internet. It used to be such a nice place, populated by nice people. Honorable people doing honorable things. Discussions were lively and disagreements common. I have lost count of the number of friends I have made through the internet, in fact I met my wife through it (and no it was not Eharmony) or any other dating site.
The last decade has brought a new and disturbing dynamic into play. Spam, Scams, Viruses and Malware.
Let me tell you about my day, and I will start at the end. My wife was prompted to update her computer to the latest version of Adobe Flash. Adobe is a well known name, PDF reader. Photoshop, etc, these are well respected and much used products. Flash for example is software that many websites use to show videos or animate games. Flash in the tech community is the ugly stepchild, it has the reliability of a 1970 Russian built Skoda. I see it Flash and Crash several times a day. When she asked me if she should accept this Adobe update, I remarked “sure, who knows they might have actually fixed something”.
It was not to be. The upgrade came with a ‘payload’, some trial version of some worthless McAfee antivirus product. She did not ask for it and can not recall being asked if she wanted it. McAfee and Symantec are as bad as the viruses they supposedly protect you from to get rid of. Like all good Malware you cannot simply say ‘Go away’, you can uninstall it, but after a little while it will be back ‘I know you didn’t mean to delete me, maybe it was a mistake?. They make HAL9000 from the movie 2001 look positively benevolent. I will deal with the Make-A-Fee infection tomorrow.
OK, lets talk about the rest of my day. My wife asked me if I would take a look at a friends computer. She was pretty certain that FaceBook did not serve up pornographic ads. I had to agree with her.
Her computer was riddled with viruses and malware. It took a couple of hours of applying “digital” Raid to even be able to start poking around to find out what was going on. Firefox, IE and Chrome had all been crippled.
Finally I managed to get the computer and a browser to sort of work. I know the lady does not hang out in bad places, so where did all of the viruses and malware come from? This is a question I often ask myself. Usually there is no answer, someone goes to what they think is an innocent site and KABOOM! In this case I know exactly who the culprits are. There is a company based in New York
29 Wells Avenue, Suite 300
Yonkers, NY 10701
They even publish a list of the nasty software they produce.
I am sure that the lady had selected the Bible Daily, yet what she got was the whole meal deal, a huge browser hijack, more toolbars than you could fit on a Jumbotron at an NHL game.
I am sure that Mindspark would say that someone else is responsible, “all we do is make services available to a third party”. That may be true, but it worries me, why make a service available that is obviously going to be used for bad things?
Also in this particular mix was a company by the name of Xacti, I am sure they would tell me the same story, they merely provide a service, for example the INBOX search engine. (Another browser hijacker), and a couple of unheard of security products that I am sure would help preventing any future browser hijack.
You will notice that I have not made either of these companies clickable. If you wish to explore their products, do it on your own. The internet is a dangerous place, there is rarely a ‘free lunch’. As kids we are taught not to accept candies from strangers, yet as adults we do.