Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Why You Will Lose At Hide And Seek.

The last post (“Again: Whose Machine Is It?”) spoke to the problem of unwanted programs (and their bits and pieces) not just refusing to leave our machines, but lurking and even running without our permission. In a very real sense, what they do is run and then hide. How good are they at hiding? Well, I can offer this: it took me two hours to get all of AOL off my machine! I no longer need their software, preferring Thunderbird to get my mail. (And more: the next day I found another program used by only AOL that was invisible to all the methods I had used; it went peacefully.)

I’m addressing this to Windows users because I’m sure Mac users have the same problem but no idea it exists. While some of these programs are able to elude the Windows Remove Programs procedure, there are others so clever they can even outsmart third-party software specifically designed to overcome the limitations of that Windows procedure. I’m speaking of software created solely for the purpose of removing all traces of such programs.

So in one sense, this is a game of hide and seek. Our dilemma is that even with sophisticated programs designed to help us seek (and hopefully remove) these criminal programs, the ones that really want to hide will escape detection. Did you notice I said criminal? Obviously, this software remains on your machine because their makers want it so. They go out of their way to circumvent attempts to remove them. To me this is more than an annoyance; I claim it’s criminal. As I said in the last post, if they were using your house or garage, they’d be gone in a heartbeat (or at least a 911 call). Why is it not a crime for them to misuse your computer in the same way?

Who out there thinks this is acceptable just because Microsoft allows it? Few companies have a worse record of computer security than Microsoft. (That discussion requires a entire blog of its own.) Microsoft may have failed to light the candle but these software intruders have spent considerable time and effort to keep us in the dark. Seek all you want; they’ll still be hiding.

This is the second installment. Next: Naming Names and Hiding Them.


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