Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Protection from Nefarious Web Sites

Ever heard of a "drive-by"? Not the kind where you get gunned down just standing on the sidewalk. I'm referring to the kind that happens now on the internet. How about "zombie computer networks"? Are you protected from them? What's that you say? "I don't even know what they are. How could I know if I'm protected, you dunce." Alright, point taken. check out the links to find out what they are. Essentially, you inadvertently visit, or are lured into visiting, a site that automatically, without you having to click on anything, downloads and installs programs on your machine. That's called a drive-by install. (I read recently that some people were receiving text messages on their cell phones telling them that they would be charged $2 per day for some service or other, unless they visited a web site and cancelled their service. Of course these people had no idea what this service was, they certainly never signed up for it. But, anxious to avoid these charges, some of them visited the site, and were hit with drive-by installations.)

What do these covertly installed programs do? They may log all your keystrokes and send them to the programmer so he/she can see any passwords and usernames you have typed on your computer keyboard, your online banking, etc. The other thing they might do is turn your computer into a zombie and make it part of a zombie network that allows the programmer, or someone who pays the programmer, to send spam through your machine. Very ugly stuff.

Take precautions (see my earlier article on making nice with your computer). This is a serious problem and it pays to be protected. Here's a useful extention to have that warns you if the web site you're visiting has any unpleasant or underhanded aspects, like adware, spam, etc. It goes with Firefox, which is a safer browser than Internet Explorer anyway. (I have IE, Flock, Maxthon and Firefox, each useful in its own way...see Barry's Best for a post on getting these browsers.) The extention is McAfee SiteAdvisor and can be gotten here. (McAfee is a well-known and trusted computer security company.)