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We All Help Finance Ad-ware and Web Bugs!

I recently visited a customer who complained her home page no longer appeared when she opened Internet Explorer. Many of you will guess this is a case of browser hijacking – a program has redirected the Web browser to point to its own Web site. You are correct. Why do some people write programs like ad-ware and viruses in the first place? Would you be surprised to learn their motive is money?Besides being a nuisance, ad-ware programs generate revenue for advertising companies on the Internet. The most direct way they get money is through their “free”, supposedly helpful, computer programs that are downloaded from the Internet. The makers of these programs tout their cool features, like searching from a toolbar on your Web browser, displaying weather information or even helping you keep track of all the logon accounts and passwords you use on the Internet. Once installed, these free programs force advertising onto your computer screen by launching pop-up ads, changing your home page to point to an advertiser’s site, or by scrolling advertising messages.Some of the more popular ad-ware programs include MySearch (an Internet Explorer add-in that hijacks the browser to point to its servers); Kazaa (which installs four separate ad-ware programs, one of which activates the sharing of your files on the Internet); Gator eWallet (tracks Web sites you visit and sends the information to its main server); AlexaToolbar (gathers information you enter into forms on the Internet and sends info to its servers); and HotBar (it tracks Web sites you visit and directs customized pop-up advertisements to your computer).The real purpose of these ad-ware programs is to gather information about your Internet surfing habits. Some of the data collected may contain personal information about you or your family. Once collected, the data is sent to a computer somewhere on the Internet. This information is sold to companies who want to advertise their products directly to you. Once they have your information, they can target you through postal mail, telephone advertising, e-mail advertising and pop-up ads directed at your computer.Even if you never download these types of programs, you should be aware of another tool used by advertising companies, the Web Bug. A web bug is a tiny program hiding on a Web site. The program is so small it measures only one pixel wide by one pixel high. Web bugs are so small a dozen can be running on a single page and you would never notice. Its job is to gather information entered into forms (for instance, when ordering something from a Web site). It sends that information, which can contain phone numbers, email addresses or even credit card information to the Web bug’s mother computer. Again, advertising companies sell this information to companies who profile you for direct marketing.The bottom line: Ad-ware makes advertising companies rich, makes your computer run slower, annoys you with pop-up advertising, hijacks your Web browser home page and worst of all could gather personal and sensitive information about you. To remain safe and secure on the Internet, we all must refrain from downloading and installing any ad-ware programs. If we stop installing them, the advertising companies will stop making them and we will all enjoy a better, safer Internet as a result.So, how do you protect yourself from ad-ware and Web bugs? First, refrain from installing those free programs that offer to save you time and mouse clicks. Remember, nothing is free. If you already have ad-ware running on your computer, download a removal tool from Lavasoft called Ad-Aware SE at or from PepMK called Spy Bot Search & Destroy at Web bugs, I recommend installing Bugnosis from PrivacyFoundation, based in Denver, at Bugnosis is a program that warns when a Web bug is on a Web page by highlighting each with a picture of a bug. It also displays which company installed the Web bug. Once you know there are bugs on a page, you can choose whether or not to input your personal information. Even though Bugnosis can’t stop the Web bugs on a page, at least you will know who is watching you surf.For information about removing any of these and thousands of more adware/spyware programs, visit Send comments or topic requests to

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