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Computer Security | Phishing Hole in IEComputer Security - Internet Cookies

 

March 15, 2005

Continued from Internet Cookies page 1

Given the number of sites and applications that depend heavily on cookies for accuracy and functionality, the lack of this data represents a significant risk for many companies. Because personalization, tracking and targeting solutions require cookies to identify Web visitors over multiple sessions, the accuracy of these solutions has become highly suspect, especially over longer periods of time.

Where does it stop you ask? It doesn’t! Some web browsers like MSIE are affected by web applications that can load by merely visiting a rogue website. When visiting a website with a non mainstream web browsers like Mozilla you may find that a script will not load and some functionality is lost, even though the browser is compatible will all internet browsing standards.  What is happening here?  Well some companies load applications onto your machine without you knowing about it.  These applications load themselves onto your local machine and typically report on topics of interest and habits that a user may have via http only when you are browsing making them very difficult to detect.

Unfortunately there's no single magic bullet to remove spyware from your PC and cookies will come back as quickly as you can surf the net. There are a multitude of security applications from which to choose and a safer web browser is a good place to start. I suggest ZoneAlarm Internet Security 5.5--the firewall will keep spyware from broadcasting any personal data about you, and the antispyware features within ZoneAlarm will help keep your system clean. In addition, and because no one antispyware database is complete, I can recommend running “Spybot Search and Destroy”, “Lavasoft Ad-aware SE”, and/or “Microsoft Antispyware” (Beta)--all of which are free to download and get updated definition files. Please read all the included documentation before downloading or using any of these products and use them at your own risk. If you use Firefox you can set it to delete cookies as soon as you close the browser, saving on having (and sometimes forgetting) to delete them manually.

Antispyware solutions

Don't look for legislation to resolve matters of spyware and adware. Like a recent, ill-fated law that attempted to remove spam, there is little hope in any antispyware bill moving and passing through Congress. The Spy Act, authored by California congresswoman Mary Bono and, authorized the Federal Trade Commission to police violations and impose fines of up to $3 million upon violators. Unfortunately, the Spy Act is watered down, just as the direct marketing associations lobbied to have done Can-Spam, the revised Spyware Act is weak and would likely not prove to be effective.

Laura Manrique, a Symantec employee, reports that, "Spyware has become the spam of 2005." She may be right. Spyware is major fear factor, but unlike spam, whose definition most people agree on, spyware is only vaguely defined. This is revealed in a multitude of products competing for space on your hard drive: some antispyware apps block more cookies, ad-serving software, or privacy-violating software than the others. And because of the fluidity in the definition, spyware producers are now suing antispyware vendors over classification technicalities. The bottom line is tha you can't be sure that any given antispyware tool will catch what it should and ignore the rest, so you'll need to run more than one kind. Be warned however, not all spyware catching tools are created equal and some have been known to identifiy things that are actually not spyware. In this case, more is not neccesarily better.

Keeping your Computer Clean

Unfortunately there's no single magic bullet to remove spyware from your PC. For a holistic approach, I suggest ZoneAlarm Internet Security 5.5 -- The ZoneAlarm firewall will keep spyware from broadcasting any personal data about you, and the antispyware features within ZoneAlarm will keep your hard drive cleaner. In addition, because no one antispyware database is complete, also consider running Spybot Search and Destroy, Lavasoft Ad-aware SE, and/or Microsoft Antispyware (Beta)--all of which are free to download and update the definition files. Please read all the included documentation before downloading or using any of these products and use them at your own risk. A prime example of this is related in a recent FTC case where authorities alleged that a company was selling anti-spyware software that did not perform as advertised.

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