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"Who is spying on my PC?"

Would you allow anyone to enter your house and observe the minute details of your lifestyle? Then, why do you put up with "spyware" which takes illegal peeks at your PC. Read on to see how you can stop this latest scourge of the Internet age...


ARE YOU a regular websurfer? Unless you have taken special precautions, it is highly likely that even now `secret agents' are lying in wait within your PC, waiting to spring to action the moment you go online. They will monitor your entire web lifestyle: which sites you visit, what your preferences are, what offbeat or kinky surfing habits you have, which are your favourite news or consumer websites, how many seconds you spend with which pop-up ad?

Why would anyone want to know this? Because trying to predict the surfing preferences of the world's 77 million Internet users is big business for lots of people out there. You may ask, how did the spy get into your PC in the first place. Easy enough - every time you download some free software or utility. Like the soldiers hidden in the legendary Trojan horse, most free goodies come with some tiny cookies or bits of software hidden within. The industry name for these `uninvited' guests is Ad-Ware. The popular and more accurate term is Spy-Ware.

It is not feasible to create a watertight wall against such digital double-o sevens for the simple reason that if you disenable all cookies, you will miss out on a lot of legitimate and useful stuff. Does that mean we are helpless against these invaders? The answer is no -- You can fight back, and protect yourself from snoopy software. You have to install special software, which will sniff out the spies on your hard disk and kick them out. A casual search with the Google search engine will throw up literally thousands of `online privacy softwares,' which promise to catch the spies. But, it is practically impossible to decide which are the good, bad and ugly ones. Indeed, it is known that some so called spycatchers are really spies, which will only worsen your problem.

There is a general agreement that one of the best and most famous of the cyber spybusters is "Ad-Aware" (to make you aware of Ad-Ware snoopers.) Till very recently, this was a freeware. But in recent weeks, the publisher lavasoft has decided to charge for the product and the latest version 6 costs the equivalent of Rs. 2,000. However, many of the free download sites (http://www.download.com/ is a good place to begin) still offer free versions of Ad-Aware albeit slightly earlier versions.

Last week, CNet.com, the parent of the download.com site carried a review which revealed that another freely downloadable spy buster called "Spybot- Search and Destroy 1.1" is available from the same download site and is every bit as good as Ad-Aware.

Spybot is made by a German company called PepiMK and quickly brings up a list of all files on your hard disk which appear to be ad-ware or other invaders. You can select the ones you want to destroy but retain some that are useful, like the history of websites visited which browsers like Explorer and Netscape provide you.

Spybot is 2.4 MB in size, while Ad-Aware (if you can find it) is slightly less. Download one of them and send the spies on your hard disk back to whoever sent them.

A.VISHNU

vishnua@hotmail.com

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