Bad News on the Spyware Front

by Preston Gralla

You think spyware is bad now?

As Al Jolsen famously said, "You ain't heard nothin' yet!"

Just consider a few predictions from Richard Stiennon, director of threat research at anti-spyware vendor Webroot.

His top prediction --- spyware will be released this year that targets Firefox. No longer will smug Firefox users, me among them, say that our favorite browser is immune from pests.

But there's worse still. He believes that RSS will become a conduit for for malware. Along with news and blog updates, we'll be hit with adware, home page hijackers, and spyware.

Particularly worrisome, he says, is that one of the major blogging services could end up having a vulnerability that malware writers exploit, which would instantly infect countless people who subscribe to RSS feeds. The infection could spread like lightning because of the automated nature of RSS.

Stiennon doesn't suggest any quick fixes. Because he works at an anti-spyware firm, you may think that he's trying to scare people into buying his software. But he's not. Even if these predictions aren't correct, the spyware threat will continue to balloon.

There's no single way to stop spyware from growing. But there is one that will help, and that no one talks about. That's to punish those who benefit from the spyware scourge --- the advertisers who benefit from pop up blizzards and home page hijacking. Once they start hurting, they'll police how their ads are used, which in turn will cut off money to spyware purveyors.

Cutting off the money flow will go a long way toward solving the problem.

But don't expect to see the feds take action --- after all, this is the same crew that passed the Can Spam Act which only helped to increase the amount of spam we receive.

How would you solve the spyware scourge?


2005-06-14 21:47:39
Rather than blogging services seem like a good. rss by tags.
2005-06-14 21:48:31
Rather than blogging services seem like a good target. rss by tags.
2005-06-15 05:42:03
why fear
You should support firefox's ability to quickly adapt and fix holes spyware creators might use to install software instead of relying strictly on security through obscurity.

Blogs already have their comment abilities attacked by spam, so what's new about using rss feeds to send in advertisements?

2005-06-15 07:50:06
In translation
I put the above text through my buzzword decryptor, and here's what I got:

You should support our ability to close the barn door after the horses are out, rather than relying on those old-fashioned locks. Only a small number of horses are likely to get out, if things go right, and those will probably be horses with inattentive owners.

2005-06-15 08:50:32
In translation
I think you need to service you buzzword decryptor, it's analogy unit is on the fritz.

Closing the barn door after the horse has fled is of course useless. If however you have many millions of barns and only a few horses have wandered out or been stolen then quickly shutting the door before more damage is done is obviously to be commended.

2005-06-15 11:06:32
The Human Factor
Thanks for bringing this article to our attention.

The article points out that one way to stop the flow of attacks is to stop the demand for the service the attacks provide.

When human beings do not have an incentive to do something, they often do not put their energy into it. Money is a huge incentive and leads spyware creators to find ever more create ways to deliver services. It's true that viruses exist because some human beings only need to have the satisfaction.

The best solution may not be to create some new technology to remove spyware, but for a large enterprise to start suing advertisers for lost employee productivity.

2005-06-15 14:23:44
In translation
Except that the browser isnt' like a barn door, but a doggie door. You need the dogs and cats move about, but keep the badgers, foxes, and weasels out.
2005-06-15 16:23:40
What is a spyware?
A Mac user ;-)