RGS Home Page


Finishing Touch Main Page



Today's Digital Monster

By Mark Rasch, Rasch Graphic Services Corporation

In the dark ages of the digital era, the average computer user feared one thing and one thing only, the almighty virus.
With such menacing force, it was said that if a user downloaded one of these, the user's PC might begin to smoke and ultimately would burst into a bright ball of flames or on the lighter side, the hard drive would be wiped clean. Countermeasures were adopted however with the use of antivirus software from companies like Symantec and McAfee and viruses were subdued. Although they can still be devastating to the internal environment of a computer operating system, viruses are typically kept at bay through the use of software and firewall practices. As PC's and the internet have become more main stream, the dawn of a new threat plagues the digital world once again. The advent of a new monster has begun to pollute the digital realm. Something so sinister, that in most cases, its presence cannot even be detected by the average user, even though its very existence has devastating effects on a majority of PC's. We call this new threat, Spyware.

Spyware is something very different from viruses because it is not designed to destroy, but instead to run quietly in the background, hiding and tracking the user's every move. Spyware is an actual computer program that secretly runs in a PC used to track user habits so advertisements called Adware and Popups can be viciously blasted onto the user's monitor. In most cases, Spyware will not jeopardize the entire system, but its presence does have significant effects on the speed of the processor and will also consume a significant percentage of RAM. Most importantly is the fact that Spyware will ultimately open the gateway to a multitude of Popup advertisements on a PC.

Spyware manifests itself on a user's machine typically when a Freeware program, such as a game or email smiley face program is downloaded. The user is happy to receive a free copy of classic Pac Man, but as a bonus, an invisible Spyware program is also installed with the game. Hiding and tracking every move made by the user, this program discovers that Victoria's Secret is a frequent web site visited by this particular user. You can only guess what happens next. Bam!!! A panty Popup hits the screen in the middle of a PDF signature layout. Later that day. Bam!!! The Wonder Bra slams the screen in the middle of a Word document to a customer. A computer can become so infected with Spyware and Adware that Popups occur every couple of minutes.

Removal of Spyware and Adware is possible, but can be rather involved. Symantec, McAfee, and Microsoft have begun to incorporate utilities in their antivirus software to counteract and even remove this threat. These additional utilities can be effective in some cases, but unfortunately do not cover the entire spectrum. An excellent Freeware program that is very safe to any PC is Spybot Search and Destroy. This can be downloaded from the web free of charge at http://www.spybot.com. This program will remove a majority of Spyware problems on your system and also blocks future Spyware downloads.

In some cases however, the removal of Spyware is very difficult because it has made changes to the registry of a computer's operating system to prevent removal. Its will to survive makes it extremely difficult to contend with. Computer registry changes enable the Spyware to continue to thrive and even after attempts have been made to remove it, it will continue to reinstall itself, leading to great frustration. The typical user does not possess the knowledge to remove certain forms of Spyware and Adware so they become forced to contact an IT professional.

In a world flooded with Spyware and Adware, for the average PC user, the answer to this problem is really pretty simple. Prevention is the key. Prevention is always simpler than finding a cure for a PC that has already become infected. Microsoft has made several recommendations related to this topic. They are as follows:

  1. Keep your computer's software patched and current. Both your operating system and your anti- virus application must be updated on a regular basis. Only download updates from reputable sources. For Windows operating systems, always go to http://update.microsoft.com/microsoftupdate/ and for other software always use the legitimate websites of the company or person who produces it.
  2. Always think before you install something, weigh the risks and benefits, and be aware of the fine print. Does the lengthy license agreement that you don't want to read conceal a warning that you are about to install spyware?
  3. Install and use a firewall. If you are running Windows XP you can use the built-in software firewall under Control Panel, and there are free versions of firewalls that work on all versions of Windows. Prevention is always better than cure.

So the next time you consider downloading a program, remember that it is easier to hide from the Adware monster than to slay it. In summary, use a little common sense, weigh the risks and benefits of any download, and keep your preventative programs up to date.


About Rasch Graphics | More Information
PUR Binding | Perfect Binding | Saddle Stitching | Mechanical Binding
Tab Cutting | Support Services | The Finishing Touch Newsletter
EMail RGS | Home Page

7211 N. Gessner Drive • Houston, TX 77040-3143
Phone: 800 / 713-785-5750 • Fax: 800 / 713-785-5801