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I discuss a new effort to publicize spyware and its creators.

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One of the most difficult questions form me to answer is "how do I know if this download is safe?" Common advice is to only download from reputable companies, but the majority of computer users are simply not aware enough of the industry to know what is or is not a reputable company. Even internet searches on a company's reputation ... any company's reputation ... is likely to turn up widely varying and contradictory opinions that the average computer user simply cannot properly evaluate.

Aside from simply making sure that they run up-to-date virus and spyware scans, what's a poor user to do?

Enter "stopbadware.org". The goal of this new project is to "...provide reliable, objective information about downloadable applications in order to help consumers to make better choices about what they download on to their computers." The site continues, "We aim to become a central clearinghouse for research on badware and the bad actors who spread it, and to become a focal point for developing collaborative, community-minded approaches to stopping badware."

With both Harvard Law School and Oxford University behind it, it's an interesting concept that could work. By providing a presumably objective middleman, stopbadware.org has an opportunity to truly become an asset to the community.

However.

There are two potential problems: one political, the other practical.

Stopbadware.org has yet to name names. If and when they do, will they have the backbone to stand by their statements in the face of legal and perhaps other challenges?

The other problem is simply that it relies on users being proactive. It depends on users actively seeking out information about what they're about to download and install on their machines. In my experience here at Ask Leo!, that's a dangerous assumption. While some badware will, in fact, suffer from the bad publicity, the fact is average users cannot resist the latest download that promises something exciting - like the dancing bunnies I mentioned in a previous podcast.

It seems a promising part of a grander scheme to identify and shine the light on malware, spyware and other malicious software creators, but I believe it must go further and include other steps that users need not be aware of to be protected.

In the mean time, it'll be interesting to watch the cockroaches scurry - let's hope the light is bright enough.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info, and enter 9734 in the go to article number box. Leave a comment, I read them all. And while you're there: sign up for my free weekly newsletter.

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Article C2532 - January 25, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Mike Devlin
January 25, 2006 10:46 AM

It'd be awesome if these guys would develop a badware filtering tool, either in the style of Google's Safe Browsing Toolbar, or the Adblock extension.

johari
January 25, 2006 9:21 PM

pls leo

Zack
January 28, 2006 10:54 AM

Check out siteadvisor (http://www.siteadvisor.com) for someone who is doing something similar. I suspect they are safe, since instead of calling anything "badware", they just report on the number of emails signing up for a site generated, or how much behind-the-scenes software got installed, all of which are objective measurements. Also, if you are truly concerned about this, you can install a small piece of software ("but who watches the watchers?") that will show an indication of how irritating dealing with a particular site can be. Better, by clicking on the indicator, you can read more about the site.

(I am not associated with siteadvisor, but have found their software to be quite wonderful.)

Michael
March 21, 2009 10:48 AM

ďSystem restore cannot restore computerĒ. After searching Googlie for this error, it is obviously a widespread problem. I can't disable the system restoration, because I'll loose restore points, which was the entire point of needing to restore in the first place. Iíve read this advice over & over. Iíve cleaned up my disk, disabled Norton, tried safe mode, tried changing the system volume to 6% advice & ran a virus scan. Iíve also tried your advice to run "c:\windows\system32\restore\rstrui.exe" & try from there. Nothing has been successful. Do you have any other advice?

Nothing that would be helpful in this context, I'm afraid. I'm just not a fan of System Restore for many reasons - including what you're experiencing. I'd much rather turn it off and rely on a system of regular backups. I know that doesn't help you now, though.
- Leo
22-Mar-2009

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