Who's watching you surf?

Security is a primary concern for all of us on the Internet, not only the individual home user, but even those working for corporations who have the added protection of company firewalls.

Security is a primary concern for all of us on the Internet, not only the individual home user, but even those working for corporations who have the added protection of company firewalls. Although firewalls are a defense against some lines of attack, unsuspecting users might open themselves up to other instrusions by their own actions without even knowing it.

Each time you connect to the Internet, you may be sharing that connection with a spyware program that could have been installed with our without your knowledge. Spyware programs appear in various ways. Some install automatically with no indication to you, when you visit Web sites that use them. Others come along with shareware or freeware that you've downloaded, some of which give more detailed accounts than others of what exactly is being installed on your system.

For example, here are two common programs you might want to check your system for.

The first program is TSAdBot. This one comes with many freeware and shareware programs. It downloads advertisements from its home site, stores them on your computer and displays them when the associated program is running, thereafter capturing information about the ads you've been shown and which you've clicked on. Some of the programs that install TSAdBot are open about it, some gloss over the information in their privacy statements, and some neglect to mention it at all.

The other program to be aware of is Aureate DLL. Again, it is installed with freeware and shareware downloads with the stated purpose of following your habits regarding advertising so as to tailor ad offerings to your interests. Unfortunately it also introduces a serious security hole that can potentially leave your system open to hackers.

While these programs do nothing of a criminal nature, many users feel they are a violation of one's privacy. The companies that use them claim any information that is gathered is only used for marketing and other seemingly innocuous purposes. But some think they go too far.

Read PC Magazine's full report for detailed instructions on how to know if your system is running any of these programs, and, if you choose to, how to get rid of them.

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