Thursday, January 3, 2008
Sears joins the spyware nasty brigade
This really, really makes me mad!
Sears (parent company of Sears, Roebuck & Co. and K-Mart) has admitted that it is installing spyware on customers' computers when they sign up for its Web-based services.
Sears thus joins a growing number of companies who've arrogated to themselves the right to install spyware on your computer without so much as a 'by your leave'. Oh, sure, they may claim that they tell you what they're doing and give you the opportunity to decline . . . but they do so in the middle of a long, convoluted document where you're unlikely to spot it (Sears' warning is on Page 10 of a 54-page privacy statement!) and also use deceptive language so that you aren't properly alerted to what's going on.
Dear readers, if you aren't running anti-spyware software regularly (at least once a month, preferably once a week) on your computers, now would be a very good time to start. So many companies are doing this that it's almost impossible to avoid it all.
Two free anti-spyware products (both of which I use and recommend) are Spybot Search & Destroy and AVG Anti-Spyware Free Edition. I have Spybot running as I type these words. They're invaluable tools. I'd suggest using both, not just one - that way the second may catch something the first one misses. There are plenty of other anti-spyware products out there, including many incorporated into anti-virus software packages.
I'd also suggest dumping Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser - too many malicious programs are designed to slip in through its interface. I use and recommend Mozilla Firefox - it's free and very good. Their e-mail program, Thunderbird, is also a much better replacement for Microsoft's Outlook Express.
The bad guys really are out to get us, friends - or at least our computers. When our top retailers join the bad guys things are really serious. Sears and companies like it may claim they're simply using your data to build their marketing profiles, etc. - but what happens when they lose the data and the wrong people get their hands on it? (And if you think that doesn't happen, just watch the news for a few weeks!)
EDITED TO ADD: Be aware that there are many 'fake' anti-spyware programs out there that claim to disinfect your PC, but in reality open the door to the bad guys. When in doubt, check out reviews of anti-spyware products in PC magazines and online Web sites dedicated to such things. If a product wins favorable mention there it's probably safe. Both of those I mentioned above are OK.