The drive behind advertising and marketing is to create a form of communication to consumers that is fast, reliable and punctual. If that were true, people would not be exposed to ads that do not suit their interests, and marketing firms would be saving money. An initial idea in e-commerce was to sacrifice privacy for better efficiency. This meant requiring more personal information from consumers in order to better direct advertising to fit their interests. This early vision was supposed to eliminate the mass publicity that started in the television age, but instead, malware such as adware, spyware, and ad bombs are proving the importance of efficiency over privacy. (Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio.)
Adware is a tool installed on a user's computer without their permission to gather information about their browsing behaviour. This information is then sent to marketing firms, allowing them to send out ads to those users. (Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio.) Movies-links.tv/ for example, a Web site that many people use to watch movies for free, contains numerous pop-ups that are unavoidable throughout the Web page. Simply clicking on a part of the page can cause your computer to be bombarded with advertisements of unwanted products. The user is then required to click on pop-ups to move them out of the way, which only results in more advertisements.
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Spyware, on the other hand, is a more invasive tool also installed without personal consent. Spyware uses key loggers to track your keystrokes while entering information into "legitimate Web sites, to view your screen capture devices, and Trojan horses." The information on your online bank account, for example, can be used to tamper with your funds. Spyware is most commonly used for negative purposes, however, sometimes it may be used by parents or corporations to monitor online behaviour of children or employees. (Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio.) An example of spyware to be cautious of is Bonzi Buddy. This type of spyware is usually found on Web sites that present warnings about spyware. Along with these warnings come a number of unwanted pop-ups. These pop-ups will continue to appear on your screen when you are not even browsing the internet. This spyware is also known to make your computer work in a sluggish manner until its almost complete dysfunctional. When this occurs, the spyware may continue to damage your personal files and programs. (Analog media web service)
Adware programs such as "ad bombs" appear on the screen by simply clicking an advertisement offering the opportunity to win "free" content. While the ads are popping up on the screen, a program is being loaded onto the user's computer without their knowledge. This program shows confirmation of the user's approval to allow pop-ups of ads to appear on the screen every couple of minutes. All of these ads can be traced back to a marketing firm called Zango.com. Zango.com is responsible for offering millions of users in a network with free content such as "free videos, games, screen savers, and music." When users enter Zango.com to receive the free content they were offered, they are required to provide personal information such as their name and e-mail address. Zango is then able to send this information to millions of other clients. Once the content is installed onto your computer, a program is instantly downloaded that allows Zango to gather and sell your information to marketers looking to use the information for targeting interests. (Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio.)
Although adware is known to be dangerous and intrusive to consumers of the Web, it has been recognized as an efficient way of advertising for companies. Compared to other forms of online advertising, research shows that adware is twice as successful. As opposed to using hit-or-miss pop-ups and banners, advertisers are said to achieve more success in targeting consumers by exposing people to fewer ads. Although adware causes negative consequences for many firms and consumers, it can be used to divert users to products of their preference. Several governmental attempts to possibly eliminate malware altogether have been initiated due to the immense growth of the spyware industry and the complaints that have followed. "The U.S. Senate is considering the Counter Spy Act (CSA) and conducting hearings to examine the impact of spyware on computer performance and privacy and security risks associated with this software." All illegal activities such as "zombifying a system, denial of service attacks, browser hijacking, and any software that enables identify theft" are outlined and forbidden by this act. Although the act prohibits these things, consumers are apprehensive with what activities are still allowed under federal and state law. The Senate's attempt to make an exception for legal spyware has initiated great contradiction. The organization Americans For Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions (AFFECT) show support for the terms outlined in the CSA, whereas, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) disagrees, believing that monitoring the online behaviour of a user is acceptable. (Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio.)
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Many issues have been encountered since malware programs were first discovered. Typically, adware often taints social networks and Web sites run by users. It has been found that for every Web site a user views on the Internet, a large number of banner ads are shown without their personal consent or interest. This shows that Web based marketing firms are not only failing to achieve the goal to communicate with consumers effectively, but are also unaware of who consumers are and what they are looking for. Although many adware firms have shut down due to stress from groups of online consumers, Internet protection services, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Zango.com remained relentless. Branded by McAfee and Symantec as "an adware downloader" and a "potentially unwanted program," Zango installed programs to user's computers without their permission. An interesting fact was found in the case regarding protection firms discovering user pages on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook where videos that looked similar to YouTube videos were displayed. When these videos are clicked, adware programs are immediately installed instantly to the user's computer. A fundamental issue regarding malware is attempting to distinguish the fine line between what is right or wrong. Most firms are opposed to malware, but others find it useful in advertising tactics. (Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio.)
Alternative Courses of Action
Hackers and malware writers are extremely clever and experienced, making the average consumer completely at their mercy. There are no concrete solutions against adware and spyware, however, there are actions that consumers can take to help keep their computers as free from harm as possible.
Experience plays a key role in maintaining the safety of your computer. The more often you use the internet, the more experience you gain in deciphering which websites are legitimate, and which may be harmful. The more consumers know about adware and spyware, the easier time they will have trying to avoid it.
One solution users have to eliminate the offence of ad bombs is to contact the ad network directly. Although the technicians do not claim responsibility for the downloaded program, they can guide you through ways to ultimately remove the ad bombs. Technicians suggest closing ads as they come up, or pressing CTRL + N to capture the URL and send it to the network to unsubscribe yourself from the ad's list. (Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio.)
Lobbying the government to impose massive fines against companies who use adware may also be effective. There are already tighter laws in place, however, many security firms are constantly fighting to make it completely illegal. Web sites like Stopbadware.org, for example, are taking the initiative to track 400,000 sites where malware and adware is detected and the main sites where users are commonly directed to. Stopbadware.org is supported by many legitimate corporations like Google, PayPal and VeriSign who also keep track of Web sites where malware and adware are found. (Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio.)
Another precaution users can take is carefully reading the terms of service before installing a program. Companies are legally required to inform consumers if they are installing programs onto your computer other than just the initial program. If not, they have an extremely high risk of being sued. Terms of service are typically long and wordy, discouraging the average consumer from carefully reading through the agreement. This allows many companies to get away with installing harmful spyware, while avoiding any legal consequences.
In today's society, consumers love free programs available to download off the Internet. Unfortunately, many of these programs are dangerously infected. Frostwire, for example, is a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing program that can be used by consumers to download music, movies, etc. They guarantee that is free from both spyware and adware, however, with any P2P network, you are dependent on the user you are downloading from; virtually a stranger. "P2P products are one of the most common ways that adware can infiltrate your computer. The adware they distribute can bombard you with advertisements and pop-ups, hijack your Web browser, and even slow your computer to a grinding halt." (Clyman, John. Lipschutz, Robert P.)
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Keeping your system up to date with anti-spyware and anti-malware programs can be extremely helpful for protecting your computer. AntiMalware Pro, for example, is an award winning, safe, and trusted solution available to consumers. It is the leading "antivirus software worldwide with more than 10 million downloads in 80 different countries." AntiMalware Pro is able to detect and remove "any kind of malware, spyware, adware, viruses, popups, hidden ads, phising attacks, hijackers, trojans, rootkits, rogue programs, keystroke loggers, malicious BHOs, dialers and worms," by scanning your entire registry and file system in less than five minutes. This program can be downloaded for free in four easy steps, making it a great solution for a wide variety of consumers. (AntiMalware pro.)
After evaluating each solution, we have come to the conclusion that using anti-spyware and anti-malware programs is the most efficient way to protect your computer.
The best way to ensure your safety from harmful malware, is to avoid it altogether. Using programs that are able to detect and remove dangerous files from your computer is an action all consumers should take. AntiMalware Pro is free, and follows four quick and easy steps to download onto your computer. Once the program has been installed, performing a scan of your program files and registry takes less than five minutes. That is an incredibly reasonable amount of time that all consumers would be able to sacrifice to ensure their computer's safety and protection.
We do not believe that Internet Service Providers (ISP) who host adware sites should be held legally responsible for allowing adware Web sites on their networks. As stated in the case, they are paid by the advertisers of the ads to post the ads in the first place. The ISP's cannot be blamed for using ways of gaining more profit for the own business needs. It would make more logical sense to hold the sponsors who pay firms like Zango responsible, as Zango causes a number of problems for many users. Without the user's consent, Zango installs a program onto the computer that gathers personal information from the user's browsing behaviour. They then sell this information to marketers looking to target specific segments of the market. This is a violation of a user's rights to privacy and should be considered completely illegal under federal legislation.
Research has shown that, in some ways, these programs have resulted in both negative and positive ways of targeting consumers for advertising. Since the television does not force viewers to be bombarded with ad bombs or pop-ups, online advertising with adware is often described as irritating by many consumers. Mass marketing in television ads may also be irritating, however, consumers have the choice to decide what they want to see and what they don't. The fact that most users will instantly exit pop-ups on their computer screen, shows the lack of interest and initiative to look further into the advertisements. Personally, we believe that television ads hold greater strength of advertising than malware programs do.
To control these forms of advertising, the government should strengthen the Counter Spy Act by warning online hijackers and malware creators of the consequences that may follow from their illegal actions. Although it is very difficult to monitor this online behaviour, Stopbadware.org, an organization created by the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Oxford Internet Institute, is a great way to track the main Web pages where malware is found. Top search engine Web site Google, is a significant supporter of Stopbadware.org, along with other popular Web sites like PayPal, Sun Microsystems and VeriSign. Even though malware may be of help to some companies, it steps over privacy boundaries. The bottom line is that there is more bad than good when it comes to malware; to avoid the bad it must be made completely illegal.
Adware contributes to a more efficient marketplace with the ability to more directly target advertisements to consumers with specific wants and needs. Also, adware allows businesses to save funds on advertising, because they are able to avoid advertising the wrong products to the wrong people. Adware may increase the efficiency of matching buyers to sellers, however, it does not increase consumer choice. Consumers do not ask to be bombarded by advertisements even though they may fall under their personal interests. (Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio.)
- Analog media web service (2009) Lookout for spyware! Here are some examples... Atomic sound and media. Retrieved February 24, 2010, from http://www.atomicav.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=118:lookout-for-spyware-here-are-some-examples-&catid=66:general&Itemid=167
- AntiMalware pro. (n.d.) Retrieved February 24, 2010, from http://www.antimalware2010.org/
- Clyman, John. Lipschutz, Robert P. (n.d.) Peer to peer file sharing and spyware. PC pitstop. Retrieved February 24, 2010, from http://www.pcpitstop.com/spycheck/p2p.asp
- Laudon, Kenneth C., Traver, Carol Guercio. (2010). E-Commerce. Business, Technology, Society. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
- Watch-Movies (2010) Watch movies online for free full movie downloads. Retrieved February 24, 2010, from http://www.movies-links.tv/