Someone told me that in Internet Explorer if you 'Override automatic cookie handling' that you could effectively block adware and spyware. Is this true?
This question was answered on April 22, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Cookies are simple text files that store a unique identifier, much like the barcode on the back of your grocery store’s value card The card or cookie in and of itself is completely benign, because you would have to have access to the database that contains all of the information associated with the unique identifier in order to get to any real information.
Adware (software designed to deliver ads, pop-ups, etc.) and spyware (software designed to monitor your Internet usage and report back to a central computer without your knowledge) generally make their way into your computer inside of other programs.
Many of the smaller software authors that want to generate a little revenue will make a deal with an adware or spyware company to silently install their software during the installation of the primary program.
For instance, if you install a cute program that constantly tells you what the weather is (for those that are too lazy to actually look out the window!) not only does it constantly steal valuable resources from your system which slows it down, it also installs a program that allows it to send you ads.
The EULA (End User License Agreement) that no one reads covers what is going to happen when you install the program, but most users simply click on the ‘I agree’ button and go on with life.
Another common trick to getting users to install malware (malicious software) is to use a pop-up that looks like a error message Once you click on the ad that is posing as an error message, it gives you instructions on how to ‘fix the problem’ which is actually a ploy to get you to install an unneeded program.
The most disturbing new method of installing adware and spyware is via a ‘drive-by download’ Because of the various vulnerabilities that exist in many of today’s operating systems, computers with lax security settings are extremely vulnerable to having a program installed just by visiting a web site.
Anyone that puts up a website can ‘tickle’ the visitor’s computer to see if it is vulnerable and if so, silently place a program on the unsuspecting visitor’s hard drive.
Fringe web sites that deal in illegal music downloads, adult content, gambling, hacking, cracking or any grey area content are notorious for drive-by downloads.
These types of programs have become so insidious that they are causing major performance issues for the vast majority of Internet connected users
Make sure that you are up-to-date with the known vulnerabilities in Windows by going to Windowsupdate.Microsoft.com at least once a month.
Apple users can go to Apple.com/support for the latest MacOS updates.
No matter what you do from a security standpoint, your system will likely pickup various adware and spyware programs on a regular basis, so it’s critical to have a good program that can track down and remove these malicious installations.
The two that I favor are both free and relatively effective For the novice user, I recommend using Ad-Aware from LavaSoft and SpyBot Search and Destroy for more advanced users.
You can get direct links to download both of these programs from the 'Recommended Software - Seal of Approval' section at <a href="http://www.datadoctors.com/"> www.datadoctors.com<a>.
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on April 22, 2004