January 31, 2008

Trying to Kill My Computer

I install very few extras on my computer.  My system is pretty basic, having those things I deem "essential" to be able to work and do some other things smoothly.  Unlike many computer screens I see, mine is remarkably clear of icons.

Tuesday, after quite a bit of deliberation, I decided to install a new bit of software - it wasn't essential (that should have been the first warning not to do it), but it was something I wanted and thought would make my computer life a bit easier in some respects.

Unfortunately, the software was not a bit stable.  Within 24 hours my computer had blue screened twice and "frozen" a couple more times.  As this NEVER happens to me - I knew exactly what the trouble was.  Now could I undo it?


Last night, after an entire day out at a meeting (left at 7:30am returned home at 6:30pm), and seeing my 2nd blue screen of death, I figured it was better not to wait.

I spent the rest of the evening fixing my computer.  Got rid of the program, plus one or two others that had crept on the system and were sitting around taking up space - these had been useful at one time, but were no longer.  Then I updated the patches, having waited after their initial release to see if any major problems occurred.  Not to mention clearing out temporary files.  And I nearly forgot to add - scanning everything with my virus scanner plus an "outside" scanner.  (I like to be careful and there were a couple of processes in my list I didn't like the look of - turned out they were associated with the program I blew away)

Of course this was hours of work.  I feel a bit better now I've got it up and running.  So far, so good. But I'm now worried that I might have done irreparable damage and it will come back to bite me again later.  We shall see.

I hate software. 

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 09:04 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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January 03, 2008

Do Not Install...

I have said a number of times, if an email you receive, even from a company considered to be "trusted", requires you to install any software to work with them...



Are we clear? Oh, you want to know why...

Sears admits to joining spyware biz

Sears Holding Corporation, owner of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart, makes the pitch in an email sent to people shortly after they provide their address at Sears.com. Clicking the "Join" button invokes a dialog that requests the person's name, address and household size before installing ComScore spyware that monitors every site visited on the computer.

And when they say "every site" they mean EVERY SITE!

It's not that Sears fails to notify users it intends to spy on them. Indeed, the email sent to users states that the application "monitors all of the internet behavior that occurs on the computer on which you install the application, including...filling a shopping basket, completing an application form, or checking your...personal financial or health information."[emph mine --ed]

While some people may think that a company like Sears would only be looking at things like "where else they shop" and "what they buy", the software goes well beyond that. 

The bigger question is, does the customer even know they've installed such software?  I'm betting most people don't know what is going on - they clicked "okay" so all must be okay -right?  As for the legal disclaimers... how many people actually read the Privacy Statements?  Those are to make lawyers happy - not be readable by real people who have too much to do and too little time to get it done.  My guess (although I haven't received the email) is that there is a "discount enticement".  In other words, if you say "okay" they'll send you coupons. That's generally how these things work.

The rub is that this unusually frank warning comes on page 10 of a 54-page privacy statement that is 2,971 words long.

You read that right - page 10 of 54!  I don't know about you, but I don't slog through even 10 pages of legalese very willingly.  Especially not when it comes to shopping. 

If you did "join" this Sears tracking junket and wish to know more or even what the software is called and where it's sending info, head over to the story at The Register and read the rest.

Apparently Sears didn't learn from other spyware fiascos over the last few years. Or maybe they know their customer base is a non-complaining lot.  But if you don't want your information - all of it - in the hands of people you don't know, then remember - do not install anything that is sent to you via email without knowing exactly what it is and what it does.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 01:13 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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