The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Spyware (AKA adware, malware, etc.) is a royal pain in the tuchus. In some respects, it's worse than viruses and worms--at least with those, the damage gets done in one swipe, and you can move on from there. Spyware, on the other hand, lingers on your system for extended periods of time, sucking away performance power until the average know-nothing user figures the computer's hardware is conking out. As this scourge spreads, it's costing consumers and companies more to combat it, and so the wagons are circling.

I realize that the majority of spyware is avoidable simply by not installing it, or shady applications that carry it; and generally, it's good policy to not install anything that looks to have the potential to run in the background maliciously. But it's taken this long to get most people to not open virus-infected attachments (although plenty still do); it's going to take forever to educate them on something so arcane as programlettes that run practically invisibly.

In one insider's opinion, the hassles of spyware are having a potentially significant consequence:
"The typical 25-minute calls mean a difference in cost of $15; that can wipe out an ISP's entire margin," Hill said. "People call their ISP angry and frustrated that their Internet is doing something unexpected. They assume it is the ISP's fault. Some are moving away from broadband and back to dial-up because they feel they didn't have the same problems with dial-up."
Can it be true that the new-fangled broadband connection people upgrade to suddenly becomes the scapegoat for spyware-infected machines? I think it's more a case of broadband connections making it so much easier (quicker) to download potentially harmful programs that's leading to this logical leapfrogging; it's like, "I wouldn't have been able to get myself into this mess if I hadn't been able to pull in such a big program; I never could do this on my old, slow dialup connection!" It's obviously the wrong blame path, but that's irrelevant. That broadband adoption could get a big chill thanks to such a perception should be enough to spur the industry to action.

I can relate to this, somewhat. One of the rationales I used for sticking with dialup for so long was that it made me less vulnerable to security intrusions; really, it's the same assumption.