A report by http://stopbadware.org exposed file-sharing engine Kazaa Media Desktop for secretly installing spyware, malware and deceptive adware on computers. Medipipe, Spy Axe and Waterfall also have been accused of the same practice.
StopBadware.org is an organization backed by Harvard Law’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, www.google.com, Lenovo, Sun Microsystems and Consumer Reports Web Watch. The organization said its mission is to reveal to the public software programs that spread potentially harmful software, also called badware, to computers.
Badware also tracks your moves online and reports the information to marketing groups.
Some people are unaware spyware is installed on their computers, and don’t have a clue what it is.
According to StopBadware.org, 59 million Americans have badware on their computers.
“Some people don’t know that they have spyware on their computer and their information is being accessed,” said Antonio Brown, 20, sophomore business administration student from Cocoa Beach.
Some students are even under the impression that badware can be good. “I think spyware is basically a system that prevents your computer from getting a virus,” said Ayuana Hale, 19, freshman social work student from West Palm Beach.
According to http://microsoft.com, spyware is a general term used for software that performs certain behaviors such as advertising and collecting personal information on your computer, generally without appropriately obtaining your consent.
“Spyware is a tracking tool used on computers to track Internet travels and it records everything,” said Kevin Austin, coordinator of academic programs for Florida A&M University.
File-sharing programs are commonly used to download music, movies and other software applications.
Before installation, programs generally ask users to agree to the terms and conditions of the program. Some terms include acceptance of spyware.
According to http://microsoft.com, whenever installing something on your computer, make sure all disclosures and license agreements are carefully reviewed.
“Spyware slows computers down, it takes longer to open up Web pages and to bring up information you’re working on. And it causes computers to crash,” Austin said. “I really don’t have a problem with students installing programs with spyware in the lab. And because they’re not supposed to, and every so often I’ll find a computer with some form of spyware. It’s immediately deleted.”
Hale said she has LimeWire installed on her computer; but has no problems with pop-ups because of a pop-up blocker.
However, she noted that her computer moves slowly when music is playing or it skips. Conversely, http://mp3newswire.net reported LimeWire software as a parasite-free program.
According to USA Today, http://stopbadware.org claims Kazaa, http://movieland.com, http://screensaver.com among other programs are hard to completely uninstall, modify other software already installed on the computer without warning, and adds additional software attached to the program.
Kazaa, along with other programs named in the reports, denies any wrongdoing.
“The program providers are lying about spyware because they will say anything to get people to download their programs, and take your personal information,” Hale said.
“Some people are going to download these programs anyway but should be careful of what they do online,” said Brown.
Http://stopbadware.org lets consumers submit concerns about software.
According to StopBadware, first the data will be recorded in an anonymous database. Second, once they have enough data, researchers will review the data accumulated.
Third, it spots trends and patterns and spotlight new forms of badware. And finally, the site will publish a report of its findings.
“I think it’s a good idea that they’re letting the public know about the terms and policies of Kazaa and other programs,” said Yvetta Johnson, 20, sophomore health science student from Madison.
“The Web site is excellent because it inadvertently tells you what programs are installing spyware,” Hale said.
According to http://microsoft.com, there are several ways to protect your computer from spyware and other tricky programs.
Use a firewall, update your software, adjust Internet Explorer’s security settings from Internet zone to medium or higher, download and install anti-spyware protection, and surf and download only on secure Web sites.
Contact Melissa L. Louis at MelissaL32@hotmail.com