Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Naming Names (and Hiding Them)

The previous post (part two of four) is Why You Will Lose At Hide And Seek).

The dangerous side-effect in hiding all these programs—even when legitimate—is to make it easier for other software to hide. Simply put, all this hiding enables more hiding, and that includes unwanted software, i.e., malware! How can any software provider justify this approach?

It’s not enough for these programs to hide, they go out of their way to keep us in the dark in as many ways as they can. One way is to use intentionally obscure file names. Tools like Revo Uninstaller can help you remove unwanted programs. But they can only remove what you ask for. But if you don’t know what’s there, or what it’s called, how can any tool help?

Speaking of intentionally obscure file names, how does “1544741396” strike you? Well, it’s actually the name of a program in my netbook startup manager. Like you, I didn’t have a clue; so I looked it up online. What I found was that it was part of the Toshiba Registration program. OK, so it appears legit, but why does it have to be in memory all the time? Does Toshiba check this machine’s registration every time I start it up? And if it’s legit, why such a meaningless name?

If information exists about these files with strange names, why do we have to look it up? Why can’t we have that information on our computers, especially about those hidden files? E.g., many of these lurkers limit themselves to the old DOS standard of eight character names (and three letter extension). But even longer names are not a solution; bigger is not necessarily better. Why can’t the file itself provide further information? The things we need to know are who created it, what programs it runs, and what programs use it. And how about some explanation of its purpose—in terms a layperson can understand. Why is this piece of code on my machine?

As many of you may know, Google Update is probably the worst offender. Even if you remove all Google programs from your computer, it will still survive—and run. For my money, AOL runs a close second. But this is not about how to remove the offenders; it’s about why they’re allowed to offend in the first place.

For example, a good firewall will ask your approval when it sees a new program. But how can you approve what you don’t recognize? (I said good firewalls; not the one from Windows). What could be more important for your protection than an effective firewall? But clearly these software providers don’t care. What they care about is control, and they achieve that control through secrecy. Their basic approach is: We know what’s best for you. And we’ll hide whatever we want to hide. You just have to trust us. Hah!

Next post: A Little History; A Lot of Stupidity


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