.....Some web wisdom from Michael Walls
Free virus protection
, free spyware remova
l, free spell checker
, free computer tune up
, free emoticons
, Facebook, Farmville, etc, etc. Do you really believe all this is totally free?
Nothing On The Internet Is "Free"!
In the early days of the web everybody showed off their new skill sets by giving away clever little apps and macros.
Virtually nobody made money off the net back then. That was then and this is now.
Now, let's put on our thinking hats and ask ourselves - what do they get out of this? Why would a company spend time and money to develop a slick program just to make my life better? The short answer is they wouldn't!
Do you still believe in Santa Claus?
There's VERY few rational reasons to develop software, even advertise it on TV - then then give it away.....
- NUMBER ONE REASON - They are playing you for a sucker and installing spyware, trojan horses or other tracking software and malware for advertisers and/or spammers.
- They are giving you a limited version to try out. It will either expire in a set amount of days or it will do little, until you do a paid upgrade - fair enough?
- They are gathering data they are entitled to have! Example - Windows Defender anti spyware is free - if you don't have an illegal copy of Windows.
It checks on install - if your Windows OS is illegal, you don't get the free software. I think that is a reasonable request. Where is the payoff for Microsoft? More pressure to go legit.
I have found Microsoft to be very reasonable in enforcing their copyright. Much more reasonable than I would be if someone were beating me out of my paycheck.
- Last, but truly the rarest, is - a grad student at Stanford or MIT, etc. created it as a master's thesis.
OK, this is a big one! Everybody's on Facebook now - where does Facebook's paycheck come from?
Facebook members willingly agree to permit access to ANY salable personal data anywhere on their computers - forget anti-spyware. Your click overrides your anti-spyware settings.
Facebook sells honest pay-per-click ad banner space, but primarily collects personal user information and sells it to anyone.
In the beginning it was pretty much consumer info for ad agencies. However, new features being offered to "conveniently group all your Facebook features together" is really a way for them to package and sell a complete dossier on anyone - to anyone.
From Facebook's user agreement:
Facebook accesses these items on your computer - and more -
"Software companies often make special agreements with large businesses and government entities............."
Facebook took in over 12 million in funding from a CIA investment "front company" for their IPO.
- All your contact Information - All your friend's contact Information
- Place of Birth & birthdate
- Detectives routinely use this info for tracking people down
- All your friends on FB and all their personal data
- What you say, and to whom, on public posts and in private messages.
- What websites you visit and your non-FB email content and contacts
- What you search on search engines
- Contents of Word documents on your hard drives
- Titles of pictures and movies on hard drive
Facebook sells rights to outside companies to put games and applications on Facebook that put spyware and trojan horses on your computer -Farmville, Joe Blow Has An Answer For You
, any app, etc.
The Facebook User Agreement states clearly - they are not responsible for actions taken by third party content.
Three possible solutions to removing third party tracking cookies:
- Ad Aware Internet Security
- Spy Bot
- Webroot Spy Sweeper - Also protects private info on your computer
End User Agreements (EULAs)
"Naw, I never read them things - I just click" Sound familiar? When you click "I agree", you are holding the provider blameless for any claims of invasion of privacy you may wish to make, and there soooo
We're going to take a look at a few User Agreements, and what you are willingly allowing. The first in the series is, privacy invasion pioneer Adobe's snoop tech wonder-boy, Flash. The agreement is copied and annotated by me.
Read Adobe Flash's real "privacy statement"
"Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you've got it made
Come on guys - tell me you don't do that. First of all, let me remind you of the Google "Duplicate Content Penalty
". It was tailor made for "scrapers"
- people who copy and paste other people's content - just to have some content. Secondly, if you don't have anything to say, you don't belong on the net.
How to survive "Friend Spam"
Are you on few buddy's joke lists. They can be fun if done right, but consider the dark side.
There's a thousand tracking cookies out there with your name on them!
Thousands of web sites sell ad agencies the rights to put tracking cookies and even Trojan Horses on your computer - sometimes dozens of cookies at a time. It is a huge industry with names like Tribalfusion and Doubleclick leading the pack. The unfortunate part is, some are not happy with just tracking your buying and surfing habits - they want to hack your friends too.
You must allow Facebook cookies if you want to be a member. If you block their third primary cookies - they lock you out. That also applies to LinkedIn, Youtube and all the rest.
Wanna' see it for yourself?
In your browser, select Tools > Internet Options
- and hit the advanced
button. You can then set your own cookie handling behaviors.
Set it to:
- Override automatic cookie handling
- Accept first party cookies
- Prompt for third party cookies
- Always allow session cookies
Now just sit back and watch where your spam comes from. (who sets the largest number of tracking cookies per page).
CompareTV advertising to web advertising:
It would be like Victoria's Secret deciding to stop TV ads and making a deal with Verizon to tap men's phones. Find he's also cheating on his wife - send another catalog to his office!
If ad agencies can dig into your personal info, so can detective agencies, governments, the IRS - anyone with the money to pay for the information.
If any old schmoe from high school can dig up the goods on you in ten minutes - so can people with a grudge, ex wives and husbands or even psycho stalkers. This is not the wave of the future, it is now.
Everybody wants their fifteen minutes of fame online, and this is the price. So maybe it's not so bad once you get over the shock of an invisible hand in your knickers.
Delete Cookies Regularly - Your System Will Run Faster
You will have to retype a few passwords, etc., but will it will purge HUGE numbers of tracking cookies. If you have never done this, prepare to be amazed at how many you have, bogging down performance.
Cookie directories are kept hidden (it's why browsers are free). If you locate and force your cookie directory to be visible, your browser will set a new one, so best to go through your browser to clear them.
Here's How - Click to see IE tool panels
In Internet Explorer's top menu -
Internet Options > General > Browsing History > settings > View Files
Then - select and Shift/Delete files. Holding down the Shift key,while deleting, bypasses the Recycle Bin and totally deletes
In Firefox's top menu -
Tools > Options > Privacy > Cookies
In Firefox you will have to select them individually and delete them individually. One good thing, it lumps all cookies from a common source in one folder.
Does paying for software guarantee it is free of viruses?
NO! - paid AVG Anti-Virus Subscriptions install malware!
The evidence is in. It would be logical that the free version contains spyware - but the paid version too? Yup! Apparently Tribalfusion Ad Network
"made 'em an offer they couldn't refuse!" Details below.
AVG has an advanced setting called PUP Exceptions
(PUP = Potentially Unwanted Programs). It is supposed to exclude programs (known by you, personally, to be harmless) from interference (that causes poor performance) by the Root Kit and other AVG scans.
Surprisingly enough, even the paid AVG subscription automatically adds an exception for the TribalFusion "Ad Network". This effectively allows TribalFusion to insert and/or install whatever they want without triggering any response from the very software you paid for to protect you.
Here's how the whole thing works
- What happens when a sleazy online ad agency partners with a corrupt anti virus software producer?
- The greatest hurdle for sleazy online ad agencies is anti virus and anti spyware software. A good anti virus system and/or a good spyware program will keep theses dogs from planting key loggers, trojan horses and other invasions of you and your friend's privacy.
Dirty ad agencies not only want to access to your personal info - they want your friends too! Tribalfusion, is the world's largest independent online advertising network.
Apparently Tribalfusion has a deal with AVG, the most popular free anti virus program, to "let them in the back door". There is a facility deep within AVG advanced settings called "PUP Exceptions" that accomplishes this. See "This PUP's a dawgg!"
We know that the Google Tool bar has some spyware functions, we are also told that Firefox and Google collect information on where you go, what you buy, what social networks you belong to, etc., etc. All these facilities are free, and if you weren't born yesterday, you must assume some form of tribute be exacted from you in return.
If this be the case, what then is so unique about AVG? This can be explained easily by intent. What is the apparent intent of AVG giving one ad network special privilege to do what their software is intended to thwart? All ad agencies can write cookies to your cookie directory. None need any special permissions.
What would this special permission allow? It would allow any party, so named by AVG, to download trojan horses and/or other active programs that could ultimately collect ANY information ANYWHERE on your computer for ANY organization - ad agencies or whatever.
Obtaining the protection of an anti-virus program that is so widely distributed for free is a dream come true for outfits desiring to pry into your life.
For example -
Rest assured, as for the government, this is already happening - although not likely with AVG. On the legitimate side, spying is necessary to prevent terrorism, etc. But one thing is always true - if there is potential for misuse, misuse will occur.
- AVG could be solicited by the government to log activities in Quick Books and tell the IRS that you have two versions of reported income. But of course, you wouldn't do that - right?
- The entire contents of personal communiqués to an illicit lover, members of a private organization like the Masons, a dating service, or basically to any entity that you want kept private.
- But let's say someone in a government agency with access to information collected by spyware identified you with a dissident but legitimate political group? A political opponent? You got the girl he wanted - it's personal!
Some say it is just market research - nothing clandestine about that! It is in the matter of degree. I don't care if TiVo logs every single thing I watch on TV. I don't care if a shopper rewards card records what I buy. I do mind if they break into my home and rifle through my drawers.
- This PUP's a dawgg! AVG's corrupted PUP Exceptions
- Now that I described the scenario - how do they do it? PUP, or Potentially Unwanted Program Exceptions work like this -
Remember, writing to your hard drive could include adding spyware such as trojan horses, key loggers and a virus reputed to be associated with this AVG/Tribalfusion system - yahLog.
- AVG is so aggressive a system that it often views your primary tools (programs) as viral in nature. When it does this AVG scans everything they do, causing an intolerable slow down of workflow.
- To counter this AVG has PUP Exceptions, or a way to manually "clear" known safe programs from constant scans.
- If a program is manually entered, it is now cleared to operate freely with no scrutiny.
- AVG automatically adds Tribalfusion to this special list, so it is cleared to operate freely with no scrutiny. That includes writing to your hard drive. If you remove it, AVG will re-add it with any upgrades. So any time AVG upgrades software, you must yank it out again. See heading "What can I do to mitigate the problem for now?"
The yah is for Yahoo, it is a backdoor trojan horse that installs itself in your registry and allows other computer users to gain access to your computer across the internet. AVG has some kind of connection with Yahoo. See next heading - "Don't use Yahoo if you use AVG".
- A brilliant stroke of "Evil Genius" - Who would suspect they would infect the paid version??
- This is brilliant! Not only do they skirt suspicion by charging for this "elite" version of their software, they now have a new A-List for Tribalfusion - people who actually spend money.
Do not keep the faith folks - all versions of AVG are dirty! Don't pay for AVG. If you are willing to accept the compromise of your system, then don't pay for it. Also, if AVG continues to get away with it, one day they will all do it.
- Don't use Yahoo if you use AVG
- At one time AVG took over Yahoo on your computer and if you put a search term into IE's search window and chose Yahoo as the search engine, AVG would snag it and open Yahoo in a new window. You would then have to retype your search phrase. Well, if you had a keylogger virus on your system (put there by Tribalfusion) then what you typed in the new box could be instantly teleported to Tribalfusion's network - along with your personal data and all your friend's email addresses.
AVG has just released an update that -
- Gets rid of that new Yahoo window
- Re-deposits the Tribalfusion PUP Exception, if you were clever enough to find and kill it
- What can I do to mitigate the problem for now?
- First of all, take out the tribalfusion PUP Exception -
You will get some occasional error messages - this is the fun part where you see AVG unsuccessfully trying to log into the Tribalfusion network.
- Tools, Advanced AVG Settings
- PUP Exceptions - remove the Tribalfusion entry
NEXT: go to your browser (IE) -
Add a "hosts file". A hosts file blocks known offenders from accessing your computer. Here is an explanation of how it works - http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm - and a working file with all the usual suspects, and where to save it.
- Internet Options
- Privacy - click the "sites" button
- Add "address of website" (tribalfusiopn.com) and click block
You will get an AVG error message when you save it - disregard it and laugh.
Here's an interesting URL in this hosts file - 127.0.0.1 www.tribalfusion.com #[McAfee.Cookie-Tribalfusion] - they in on it too?
- Don't count on the C-Net AVG forum for help - it's run by AVG
- AVG is plenty smart on the top end - they stay active covering their ass. They keep their own and C-Net's forums going to monitor public awareness. Why else would they assign all that manpower to support a product most don't even pay for?
My "onlyest" question is - you can't keep this a secret forever. I see evidence of people starting to smell a rat already - they just don't have the details. What will they do when this hits the mainstream?
Also, I noticed on the C-Net forum some people saying they are through with AVG but can't get it off the system. What is the fix offered? A removal tool from AVG ;-}
"Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!"....Leonardo Da Vinci
- If you don't care if your computer gets hacked why did you bother with anti virus anyway?
- I have spoken to some people about using free AVG "protection" and the price they pay. Surprisingly, they answered >well I thought there'd be something like that>. I replied, if you don't care why use anti virus anyway?
The only logic is an analogy to being a small, "new guy" in prison: you need a big guy to protect you from the other inmates - so you become his bitch! Now you are protected from everybody but the worst one.
FYI - don't think the "big guys" don't do it too! The Google Tool Bar tracks your movements for ad agencies.