Monday, July 24, 2006

Managing Computer pestware malware adware and many-more-ware

PC Pest Control

Feeling lucky and secure since you have installed couple of world’s best antivirus programs and configured tight firewall in your PC? Think twice before patting your back. Well, your PC may effectively fight Viruses and RATs (unauthorized Remote Administration Tools) through these tools; it might be infected by many Pestware programs. In fact, you might be willingly running some such programs right now! Sure, damages through pestware programs are not serious enough and not so apparent, but they are not good for your PC’s health either. Especially if your only concern is about security and very especially; if you have computers that are connected most of the time to the Internet. Here is a brief guide that tells you what pestwares are, what they can do to your computer and how you can get rid of them.

Pestware- the universal epidemic:

You will have to believe that well above 90% PCs that are connected to internet are infected with one or other kind of pestware, either willingly or without user’s knowledge. Most of them are installed with the consent of user, and user often has little knowledge about them that they are in fact, pestware. Pestware offer you goodies like giving you free music, enhancing your browser capabilities, giving your cursor / mouse pointer a new look or other utilities and you willingly opt to install them. With such little offer, they can do much that you can’t figure out and that includes: from pumping pop-up advertisement to your desktop during your internet session to spy on you! Pestware has many other names- some call it Mallware, others identify as Scumware. Some unsolicited commercial software are also called Parasite. Some popular, widely used pestware are also known as adware, and, in fact, major varieties are among them.

While surfing the internet, you might have encountered some similar messages reproduced below: “

· Do you want to improve your system performance?

· Do you want to improve your system security?

· Want to know whether updates?

· Want to hide your identities?

· Download free smiley, free mouse pointer, free screensaver etc…

· Improve your browser functionality/Download speed/Search speed.

Then click on OK button below…”

Now, if you got tempted enough and click OK button to get such offers, most likely your computer is going to be infected with a pestware. Have you ever seen a genuine software piece luring you with such messages? Though the pestware are largely harmless to your PC, they annoy you most with their frequent popup messages; you loose your concentration, are obstacle in productivity and eat your system resources like CPU cycle, memory usage and bandwidth. There are more than 13000 pests according to Pest Patrol, a company which is engaged seriously behind controlling pestware. Want to see complete list yourself? Visit http://pestpatrol.com/search/searchpestinfo.asp and you will be amazed to see the huge list yourself. There is another list at: http://doxdesk.com/parasite that you can look in to. However, your need and choice may vary and you may not agree with the entire list terming some of them as pestware, but they indeed are pestware by definitions and definitely are harmful to some others. Here is a brief list that shows what else a peatware can do to your PC:

Pestware side effect:

Pasteware are designed to gain commercial benefits from all sundries that got trapped in to it. They may do following and many more:

  • Record your browsing habits and based upon your interest-forecast, bombard you with targeted advertisements and offers.
  • Can record your key-strokes through key-loggers and send it to a predefined destination as log file.
  • Take screenshots of your desktop at an interval send it to a remote location as e-mail attachments / ftp upload.
  • Spy on you to capture your passwords / credit card numbers if you are on-line buyer.
  • Place cookies in your computer to know your computing habit and to recognize and identify you.
  • Run malicious applications / scripts.
  • Hijack your browser.

However, there are pestware that really help you in your everyday computing needs and you may not be able to live without them. You yourself have to determine, and not the third party- such as an anti-pestware utility should determine that which pestware is good for you or your organization.

Mode of action

Though every pestware works differently, but in general, initially they grab information about you and your locations. Since most of the PCs on internet have dynamic IP addresses, they rely on cookies they implant, information from registration form you fill during registering to a web site or your text input while you search something through key-words or mouse-clicks. Most of the pestware comes courtesy dubious freeware utilities that claim to offer you most but in turn they spy on you. Can you believe that KaZaA Media Desktop that is hugely popular amongst music buffs with more than 214 Million download till writing this article, and that remain at the top of popular download list for quite a long time; is termed as pestware. The freeware KaZaA also gives you banner advertisement for free and has option to install third-party application through it. Now, there is no reason to not believe that 90% PCs are pestware infected, and that too; willingly bypassing every security and circumventing every firewall. Pestware can also be installed through ActiveX / Java codes through your browser, e-mail attachments and in most of the cases, they doesn’t include an uninstaller program thus making them hard to delete from system.

Once installed, pestware starts functioning in background. For example, if you visit to Electronics for You web site and search for UPS either through clicking a link of UPS or giving keywords UPS in its search Input-box, immediately you may see some pop-up message containing advertisement related to UPS. These pop-up messages appear in addition to other genuine pop-up messages that generates on that web site. Here, pestware records your search string UPS, sent to its server which in turn judge that you are interested in buying UPS, and hence bombard you with advertisements of UPS. At times, your location is guessed correctly but most of the time they fail entirely and thus gives an Indian user offers centric to USA & Canada.

Prevention:

Though may be difficult and tricky for some, there are complete cure available for erasing and eliminating pestwares from your PC. Since prevention is better then cure, it is better to prevent their entry before they infect your PC. Here are few suggestions you may follow to prevent pestware infecting your PC to some extent.

  • Beware of email attachments. Besides viruses and worms, they may contain pestware. Disable preview in your mail client.
  • Surf web with highest security settings. Disable ActiveX and if it is not possible, choose prompt options so that you can say yes or no while they install. Always use signed ActiveX controls.
  • Use firewall and configure it properly leaving no hole.
  • Surf Web with caution. Some pop-up dialogue boxes that appear having spurious messages contain Close button, which in fact are OK button having ‘Close’ label. When you click on them to close the window, the window closes indeed, but starts downloading and installing pestware in background. So be alarmed and always close them with X button in its top right corner. Alternately, you can close it form taskbar by right clicking on it and then selecting close.
  • Some P2P multimedia file sharing software have bad name for their security holes as they provide easy ground for installation of pestware. Use them with caution.
  • Use freeware with caution. Prior to installing them, ensure what they claim to offer and are really valuable to you. Read their reviews from technology magazine like i.t., check their web site and try to gather whatever information you can. Finally, cross check with the site that contain latest updated database of pestware that whether it is included there or not. If you find its entry there, one of its work is definitely coming under the definition of pestware. The link for couple of such web site is given some where else in this article.

Radical Treatment for removing pestware

Once a pestware installs in your PC, removing it is real tricky business. You might have installed them willingly not knowing their potential dangers they offer to your PC. Similarly, they may have installed without your knowledge and are running on background. Cookies and adware type pestware installs automatically in certain conditions and work in background without your knowledge. Moreover you do not know that which pestware can do what type of trouble to you. Therefore, pestware should be treated similar to viruses.

Manually detecting and removing installed pestware takes time and effort. Often you become clueless and remain unaware regarding installed pestware. Besides these, pestware doesn’t do any apparent damages to your PC therefore they may remain installed forever in your PC. As you need an antivirus program to detect and remove viruses form your computer, similarly, you need anti-pestware program to detect and remove pestware program from your computer. Pestware detection and removal tool work similarly as antivirus software works. They scan your hard disks for known pestware programs with a matching, updated pestware definition database file. Therefore, similar to antivirus program, if you are using an anti-pestware program, its pestware definition file should be regularly updated with latest definition files.

Here are some of popular anti-pestware program that you can try. Please note that as with the cases of antivirus program happens, none of single anti-pestware can detect and remove all kinds of pestware from your computer. You will have to try more that a couple of these programs. And, newer pestware may not be included in their definition file, therefore, may not be detected at all. Still, for treating known pestware, you can use some of these, and thanks, most of these are freeware:

  1. Adaware http://www.lavasoftusa.com
  2. Anti-Trojan http://www.anti-trojan.net
  3. PestPatrol http://www.pestpatrol.com
  4. SpyBot Search & Destroy http://www.security.kolla.de
  5. SpySweeper http://www.webroot.com
  6. Xcleaner http://www.xblock.com
  7. SpyRemover http://www.itcompany.com
  8. Stinger http://vil.nai.com/vil/stinger
  9. Uwshredder http://www.spychecker.com

You can also use some web based service for this. Simply connect to internet and then go to the web site which offer this kind of service and they will scan your computer for pestware and offer you their treatment. You don’t need to install any anti-pestware removal tool for that. One such address is: http://doxdesk.com/ . But again, use such services with caution.

Screenshot Descriptions:

Pestware 01 Doxdesk offer you online checking of your system for installed parasites- the unsolicited commercial software.

Pestware 02 Tools like PestPatrol scan your computer and detect for all kinds of pestware that you can later on decide to retain or delete. On a typical PC, which is only used for occasional web surfing and emailing, it detected a total of 73 parasites installed!

1 comment:

Simon Scatt said...

Many programms include spyware modules. Use anti-spyware for protect your privacy.
As for me, I like professional anti-spy software like PrivacyKeyboard by Raytown Corporation LLC.
You can download it here: http://download.softsecurity.com/1/14/prvkbd.zip (~4MB)


Anti-Spyware: Efficiency of the Means of Defense

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