Everyone complains about spam, but few people do anything about it. And what is worse, a lot of the people that complain the most are probably contributing to the problem. In fact they may be part of the ring of computers around the world that are pumping spam and viruses around the net.
There are programs called “bots”, short for robots, that do what their masters bid. Their masters plant these bots on your PC and have them programmed for some specific function. Your PC may have some and you may not even know it. Here in Panama, I have seen many people that run PCs and never update their system software with the latest fixes. In fact many small shops will sell a PC and install the operating system for you and it may not be a legal version and it can’t be updated with the latest fixes.
I have talked to some local techs that say they don’t use an antivirus because they don’t need it. If they have a problem they will just rebuild their PC. These people contribute to the problem. Many people think they can install an antivirus program and never have to worry about problems again. Not all anti virus software updates its signature file automatically or frequently enough to prevent the reception of a virus. Furthermore most anti virus software doesn’t stop adware.
Most adware and “bots” get on your PC because you ask for it. I am sure many people see one of those flashing notices on their screen that says something to the effect “Your PC may be infected with spy ware. Click for a free scan of your PC”. If you click you are giving permission to have adware or worse installed on your PC.
I am sure that many people chat and like to put on those special smiley faces. Again when you install programs like Smiley Central you are putting adware on your PC. How about downloading free games for your PC. A lot of free games come laced with adware.
Do you use one of the filesharing software packages such as limeware or bearware? These also are burdened with potential malware or bots as well as the files you download could be contain viruses.
So that explains a little about how you get malware on your PC. Once it is there, it performs whatever function it was programmed to perform. It gathers information about you personally. It uses your PC to plant bots on other peoples PCs. It sends viruses on the Internet using your personal email. It uses your PC as a proxy location to send spam around the world, and many other vile things.
With the demise of Blue Security, my PCs spam email has greatly increased. My spam comments have jumped by probably 400% or more in the last few days. I will get a blast of spam comments and you can see a pattern to the current flood. They may all be related to an insurance company. They might be porn related. They might be from a pharmaceutical company. They might be from a mortgage company. I might get 10 comments in one blast. What is interesting is that the IP addresses are all different and from all over the world. That implies that the spammer is using victims PCs to assist in sending the spam and hiding his origin.
With the demise of Blue Security, the problem has become more visible and more companies, governments and individuals are working to stomp out the offending criminals.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry and you don’t need to do anything. It is going to be very difficult to completely eliminate the problem if the average PC owner doesn’t become a little more active and feels a little more responsible for solving the problem. What should you do?
First – make sure that your operating system, browser, etc is updated to the latest level of fixes.
Second – install virus software and insure that the virus signature file is current and daily (if not more often) updated.
Third – use some of the adware/malware software to insure that no adware/bots are on your PC.
Forth – don’t download programs that are known adware offenders (Smiley Central, free games, file sharing software such as Limeware, etc).
Fifth – activate a firewall.
It is going to be a lot tougher for spammers to spam if they can’t use your PC.
Here are some links that should assist you in cleaning up your PC. This assumes that you are using a Microsoft Windows environment since that is the system that is currently the most susceptible to these problems. I have used all of these programs and they have been effective. There are professional products as well, but if you are using nothing now, you have no excuse not to be protected because of not wanting to spend any money. You can only have one antivirus program installed at a time, but you can have both of the adware programs installed.
Here is an interesting article on the Invasion of the Computer Snatchers.