Posted by: Rob | April 30, 2008

Cookies, Mal-ware, Worms and other internet “goodies”

Looking back, I guess I’d have to say I have mixed feelings about surfing the internet in the “early” days. Our connection was dial-up (at 33.6 k), so it was slow, but many of the browser pages were designed for small bandwidth then. On the flip side, the experience was nice in that there had not yet been a huge proliferation of threatening and annoying viruses, worms, ad-ware and mal-ware. Mind you, I was relatively naive about all things internet then and a lot of stuff may have been going on of which I was unaware. (Hey, that’s got to be some kind of literary thing, isn’t it? ad-ware, mal-ware, unaware. Get it? Nevermind.)

I moved up to a 56k modem around the time most folks in the cities were moving to broadband cable hi-speed. Then, that was pretty much the speed limit for us country folk. Still, the kids managed to download their more favourite music and some fan pictures and such as well. After Napster was driven out of the whole P2P thing and replaced by Morpheus, I started to notice things were…not quite right. Machine performance would degrade over time, slow to start up, slow to shut down. What could be wrong?

Started checking into tech forums on the web and doing a little self-instruction and finding out that many, if not all, of the “cool” things that kids could download harboured a little more than we all bargained for. Thus began my campaign to rid my PC of the unwanted and keep it “clean” of internet detritus. With two unwitting teenagers it was a nearly continual battle though.

Reading and reading, bits and snippets here and there, I soon learned that Microsoft was a favourite target of hackers who seem to learn (and quickly) every vulnerability in Microsoft’s programs and how to exploit it, usually for ill purposes. I soon migrated from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (we had tried Netscape Navigator, but I never really liked it) to Mozilla’s Firefox browser as it provided, purportedly, a much safer internet surfing experience.

Eventually, my internet realm became a once a month session to pay bills and check e-mails. The 56k connection just couldn’t cut it and to make matters worse, increasing noise on the telephone company’s line made obtaining or sustaining a connection nearly impossible. (“Sir, the signal noise on your line is within acceptable parameters for voice. There’s really nothing more we can do.”)

Given that scenario, one would think and be relatively confident that spyware, ad-ware and mal-ware had all been held pretty much at bay, wouldn’t one? Well, one would be wrong. Shortly after I had wireless high speed internet installed (Motorola radio canopy set-up), I noticed a high level of activity on my PC one day while no one was sitting there. There were no virus scans or anything running. I watched the internet traffic monitor and, finally, engaged the internet lock. Warning boxes started popping up for outgoing e-mails that were now being halted by the internet lock. I checked a few of these and found them to be spam with destination e-mail addy’s I did not recognize. Mind you, the sending e-mail addy’s were spoofed also, as I did not recognize them either. My PC had been taken over and was operating as a spambot! Now it seems that the jerks who do this sort of thing (and, apparently, many of these are Russian mobsters) have taken to creating ‘botnets’ to distribute the “workload” and make tracking of the offending ‘bots that much more difficult.

What’s a botnet? The link will take you to an article that describes this latest blight on the internet landscape. It also discusses the effort of some to create rival “good” botnets to circumvent, infiltrate and defeat the bad botnets. I find this whole idea rather chilling. It makes me wonder if the “Rise of the Machines” as depicted in the “Terminator” films could really come to pass.

So now I have my PC’s (and a couple of MAC’s) sitting behind a router. On my PC’s I’m running the free AVG anti-virus program (this little devil updates itself at least daily) and the ZoneAlarm firewall program (although the firewall part is disabled per my ISP’s recommendation). I have my Firefox settings configured to ask me about every cookie that every website I visit wants to set. And man, does that get annoying whenever I visit a new or highly commercialized website. Oft times I will just give up and decide that I don’t want to visit a website that, between itself and all of its ads, wants to put a bazillion cookies on my PC. I also periodically run Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy. But really, wouldn’t it be nice if all of this effort wasn’t needed? Just think of the many good purposes to which our time and computing power could be put if we didn’t have to waste it keeping low-life, scumbag bottom feeders at bay.

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Responses

  1. The biggest mystery to me? Why do they send spam? Do people really buy penile products, fake rolex watches and the like because some random bot sends an e-mail? Do people really fall for the banking scams?

    Gut says it must be lucrative or they wouldn’t expend the effort… but man, how stupid can people be?

  2. daisyfae,

    I think it probably does pay. How many clicked responses would they get per million spams? Odds say it’s enough to pay the bills and then some, especially since the spammers aren’t going away.

    Annie wrote a bit about my spam here, if you’re interested.

    “how stupid can people be?” – check my next blog piece.


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