Con artists have been working hard to separate you from your money since the dawn of time. These days, pretending to be you and fooling banks is the con man's game and spyware is the tool of the trade. Spyware, also called malware, scumware and a host of other epithets are programs that are installed in unsuspecting computers to steal your information. Information about who you are, your name, age, income, marital status, social security number, credit card information is siphoned off and used to allow someone else to pretend to be you. You know what I mean; you've seen the commercials. Your bank, for instance, is interested in helping you protect your money from these thieves.
Or are they?
Imagine this: you go to the bank, stand in line and while you are waiting, next to you is a stand with all sorts of interesting brochures. While waiting in line, you see one brochure titled “Protect Yourself From Malware” (front, back). Oh! You like this already! You hate malware and are glad to see a bank taking an active interest in helping out their customers.
You are about to receive a shock.
Now, the shock comes in the middle section of the inside of the brochure, under the section titled “What Can I Do To Protect My Computer?”
The site www.spy-bot.net (www.safer-networking.org is the real address for Spybot) is a shadowy entity which sources say is associated with AlertSpy.com which is owned by Three W Networks Ltd., a company with a P.O. Box in Nassau. As in the phrase “off shore”. Try and find out who they are. I dare you. You might find Sasquatch too.
Anyway, this sneaky little site is a “goad site”. They goad you into thinking that something is wrong, making you panic, telling you that your system is infested with all kinds of horrible things but that they can cure you. For a fee, of course. (not to mention that they will INSTALL some of the worst spyware on your computer in the process)
They tell you about spyware removal software and list two very well known, and respected, programs designed to keep your computer spyware-free, Ad-Aware and Spybot Search and Destroy.
Many people these days have no clue to the danger they are in. Companies are often no better off. Take for example the case of Fifth Third Bancorp. Fifth Third, or 53 as they are sometimes known has $104 billion in assets, 1,181 full-service Banking Centers and branches in 12 States. They have more money than many 3rd world countries. Yet, they still can't spend enough money on making a brochure that doesn't steal your personal information.
A quick side story before we go on. One thing that the people making spyware know is that they are being hunted. Groups are hunting them down all the time. People who in their spare time, or as a full-time job track them down. Spyware creators are the ones who steal your identity. Your money is being slowly siphoned off by these criminals. One way that these predators can escape from notice for a while is to put on the clothing of one of the hunters. A wolf in sheep's clothing. For example, making a product that looks similar to the Real McCoy, say “Ad-Aware”, and using this program to INSTALL spyware onto your computer. This is what is known in the computer world as a Trojan Horse, a program that looks like it will do one thing and then do something completely different.
Now, personally, I love Spybot. It's one of my favorite anti-spyware programs. Yes, there are many anti-spyware programs and not all are alike. Some are good, some are next to useless, but that is another subject. Anyway, if you go to www.spy-bot.net and look at things, they have no association with Safer Networking, the people who make Spybot Search and Destroy, they have no connection with each other.
Spybot Search and Destroy is free to individuals. They ask for donations but you never have to pay for it. Ever.
Thus, Fifth Third is pointing you in the direction of a web site that wants to steal your name, your identity and your money. You have to pay for the privilege too. Sure, it's an innocent mistake; anyone could have done it but don't you think with $104 billion (BILLION!) in assets that they could have invested in some research, as opposed to letting the boss' nephew do it after school?
When I discovered this months ago, 53 was the first to know. That was quite a while ago and they have basically said "thanks, we'll let you know if we decide to do anything". Who knows when, or if, this behemoth of a company will fix this problem.
So, take the advice of Fifth Third and protect yourself from spyware. That you might get from Fifth Third.