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Tell Unwelcome Spyware to Pack its Bags!
by Steve Gibson, Gibson Research Corporation
Internet Connection Misuse & Abuse

For many years, the big problem has been software viruses written by malicious teenage hackers finding their way into our personal computers to set up shop with their own agendas. But today we face a new and even more insidious threat:

Internet companies, whose apparent "business
model" is the exploitation of consumer trust and
ignorance, are sneaking their spyware systems
into our machines for their own purposes.

What is Spyware?

Spyware is ANY SOFTWARE which employs a user's Internet connection in the background (the so-called "backchannel") without their knowledge or explicit permission.

Silent background use of an Internet "backchannel" connection MUST BE PRECEDED by a complete and truthful disclosure of proposed backchannel usage, followed by the receipt of explicit, informed, consent for such use.

ANY SOFTWARE communicating across the Internet absent these elements is guilty of information theft and is properly and rightfully termed: Spyware.

The news media has carried many stories about Real Networks who were reportedly caught 'red handed' secretly profiling their users' listening habits, Aureate/Radiate and Conducent Technologies whose advertising, monitoring, and profiling software sneaks into our machines without our knowledge or permission, Comet Cursor which secretly tracks our web browsing, GoHip who hijacks our web browser and alters our eMail signatures . . . and many other hopeful and exploitive newcomers on the horizon.

When confronted with their actions, such companies invariably say "read the fine print, what we're doing is spelled out there and the user agreed." That's odd, if the users understood and agreed, I wonder why those users are so surprised and upset when someone tells them — in plain language — exactly what's going on?

Anonymous Surveillance for Profit

Online profiling & tracking "privacy statements", and backchannel "spyware" license agreements, invariably adopt identical cop-out terminology. They state that "no personally identifiable information" is being collected. It has been shown that in many instances this is an outright lie in itself, but even when, or if, it is true, I submit that these "identity stealing profilers" are nonetheless profiting from valuable information that has been stolen from us without our informed consent.

I urge you to take a moment to consider the
contents of this page before you proceed:

Click on the button above to view the page.

OptOut and this Web Site

Click for the Optout product page.I consider the actions of companies that hide behind their fine print, take advantage of consumer trust and ignorance, and deliberately leverage complex hidden technology, to be the lowest form of personal privacy exploitation.

So I created OptOut to inform and empower the individual, to bring this bad corporate behavior to light, and to publicly critique the actions of these spyware publishers.

I'm afraid this problem is not going away . . . but neither am I.

OptOut warns its user when any spyware known
to us has entered their machine, and provides
the option of immediate or later removal.

  OptOut Web Site Overview  
If this is your first visit to our OptOut web site, you may wish to familiarize yourself with its twelve main pages by reading the table of contents summary below.

Choose any page you wish, or to proceed directly to the next page, please see The Code of Backchannel Conduct.

The Code of Backchannel Conduct
The Personal Computing industry needs a public code of conduct against which software that uses our Internet backchannel can be evaluated, graded, and compared. This web site proposes the formal establishment of the CBC: The Code of Backchannel Conduct. With that established, the Index of Known Spyware page uses this proposed code to rate and rank all known backchannel users.

The Internet Spyware Analyzer
In order to fully analyze all possible behavior of unknown spyware we must often conduct an "Internet Dialog" with the software under analysis. We have, therefore, developed proprietary spycracking technology, known as the Internet Spyware Analyzer. This proprietary tool facilitates the forensic analysis of unknown and potentially hostile spyware.

The Index of Known Spyware
As we encounter and analyze new spyware, our findings will be graphically summarized in the index of known spyware. The online conduct of each spyware system will be analyzed against the criteria of the CBC to quickly highlight its troublesome features. Also, any subsequent changes to the spyware system's CBC-related behavior will also be shown. Links branching from the graphical quick summary further detail the specific nature of CBC transgressions.

The Growing List of Suspected Spyware
As new "suspects" appear and are brought to our attention, this page serves as a clearinghouse for not-yet-analyzed suspicious software and systems. In order to help prevent duplication of reporting efforts, any reporter must first check both the Known Spyware page (for the listing of previously analyzed and well known spyware) and this "Suspects" page for previously reported — but not yet analyzed — suspicious software.

OptOut : A Tool for Proactive Control
The goal of this OptOut web site, in addition to publicizing spyware existence, behavior, and activities, is the support and maturation of the OptOut software. This page describes the present status and future plans for OptOut.

The OptOut User's Guide
The forthcoming release of the OptOut program will be significantly more capable and extensive than the initial "preview" release. This page will contain an extensive online guide to all operational features of the next release of OptOut.

The OptOut Program FAQ
To provide the best and quickest possible technical support of OptOut, and to answer the most commonly asked questions without incurring the delay of an eMail cycle, this page provides answers to the most often asked questions about the OptOut program. A separate Privacy FAQ page (see #12 below) provides answers to more general privacy-related concerns.

Privacy On The Net
Internet privacy has suddenly become a hot topic on the Internet. This page gathers a wide variety of privacy-related links for those wishing to explore this rapidly expanding topic in greater detail and depth.

Our Internet Privacy Discussion Newsgroups
You are invited to read and participate in our online discussion forums. Either way, you'll find these newsgroups to be amazingly informative and often quite entertaining. (Be sure not to miss our newest "Ten-Forward" group for freewheeling "off topic" debate, dialog and fun!)

Be Notified of Significant Events!
"Being connected" on the Internet is all about knowing what's going on. We are rapidly building a strong community of people who receive a brief eMail note whenever the GRC Corporate News blog, or my personal commentary blog are updated. So, if you haven't already, I urge you to consider subscribing to either or both of those blogs so that you're kept in the loop about what's going on here at GRC! (This "News" page contains links to our various "Social Networking" activities.

Internet Privacy FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions?
This FAQ page answers the most often asked questions arising from the pages on this site. It also addresses common questions regarding Internet privacy. Please note that questions directly relating to the capabilities and use of our OptOut software are addressed on the separate "OptOut Program FAQ" page (see #8 above). Our goal is to minimize your confusion and the repetition of common questions being asked in the online public forum. Please check here to see whether we've already addressed and answered any privacy-related questions you may have.

To continue, please see The Code of Backchannel Conduct.

You are invited to browse these pages for additional information:

1  OptOut Homepage 
5  Suspected Spyware 
9  Privacy On The Net 
2  Code Of Conduct 
6  The OptOut Program 
10  GRC Privacy Forums 
3  Spyware Analyzer 
7  OptOut User's Guide 
11  Keeping Informed 
4  Known Spyware 
8  OptOut User's FAQ 
12  GRC Privacy FAQ 

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Gibson Research Corporation is owned and operated by Steve Gibson.  The contents
of this page are Copyright (c) 2024 Gibson Research Corporation. SpinRite, ShieldsUP,
NanoProbe, and any other indicated trademarks are registered trademarks of Gibson
Research Corporation, Laguna Hills, CA, USA. GRC's web and customer privacy policy.
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Last Edit: May 28, 2010 at 12:28 (5,171.76 days ago)Viewed 27 times per day