It’s good to be cautious; it’s not good to be paranoid. But if you don’t spend your entire waking life ferreting out the truth about the real dangers, the perceived dangers, and the just plain made-up dangers you fave on the Web, how in the world are you supposed what to believe and what to do?
We believe in free speech and all that. We believe it’s everyone’s right to say what they want and write their opinions. Anyone can have a blog without spending a dime. But there’s an inherent problem with so many “computer experts” running wild on the Interweb. Who do you believe.
Yesterday, one of the Windows newsletters we subscribe to (we like to check up on our competition to see what they’re saying – as well as to see what ideas they’re getting from us) issued a special newsletter to promote a product which is supposed to help you keep safe online -particularly when banking or shopping online. We had to laugh when we received it. We know the people who write this newsletter – and we know for 100% certain that the writers of this newsletter would never install the program they were selling on any of their own computers. Yet, there was an urgent “Buy this and save your soul” email.
While we laughed, it wasn’t funny. We suppose many thousands of people believe the things these people write. We’re not going to mention the newsletter or the product, we’re just going to tell you why we think it’s a terrible thing they did.
We (those of us in the computer help, tips, and tricks newsletter business) owe our readers the best we can give them. That means our readers and our integrity come first – above the need to stay in business. In other words, don’t sell out your readers. Yes, business is bad, sales are bad, money is hard to come by and expenses are going up. But that’s no reason to sell your soul to the devil. We have always believed that if we told the truth as we see it, if we only advertised products in our newsletter that we would use on our own computers, and products we would recommend to our families and friends, we’d be OK. It worked well for a long time. When the economy went south, sales soured and we were left in a financial bind (we’re still in one). But we’ve never stooped to selling anything and everything just to make a buck. We’ve tried to find products that we would (and do) use and then recommend them to our readers. And we have never strayed from that philosophy. We, like many others are struggling, but we’d rather close up shop than to resort to what a competing newsletter did yesterday.
It’s not that the product they were selling was spyware. It’s not that the product they were selling was inherently bad – it is that they product they were selling was unnecessary, and worse, the marketing method used to sell it was fear.
The product is supposed to protect you from keyloggers – which most good antispyware and antivirus software protects you from anyway. The only kind of keylogger that these programs won’t protect you from is a hardware keylogger – but then neither would the program they were selling. Hardware keyloggers have to be installed in your computer – manually – like any other hardware. That means someone would have to have physical access to your computer to install that kind of hardware.
The product is suppose to protect you from “screen scapers” and “hackers”. This is a joke, but it’s not funny. During a recent convention of white-hat hackers (good guys who hack to find vulnerabilities) the hackers admitted they don’t sit around monitoring network traffic looking for unprotected computers. If they want someone’s personal information they simply trick them into giving it to them – via Email. These firewall vendors who say they can protect you from identity theft are liars – plain and simple.
The product sold for $39.95 but you could get it for “only” $20.00 through this special newsletter offer. You’d be better off taking your $20.00 and giving it to someone who needed it than to shell out $20 for another program you don’t need.
The point is that it’s no wonder you get confused. When so-called trusted sources resort to fear tactics to sell a product you don’t need just to fill their coffers, who can you trust? It’s confusing enough out there on the Web without those who have a responsibility to be honest and forthright with their readers start venturing off into fear mongering just because they’re struggling financially.
With the web full of technical blogs written by people who don’t know much more than the average computer user, with people copying such nonsense and posting it all over the Web , and now with once respected newsletters turning to fear to sell products in order to stay in business, we understand why people are so mixed up and confused. We understand why the word “hacker” evokes such fear among computer users. We understand the difficulties you face trying to find the truth.
Hackers don’t lurk around every corner waiting to invade your computer and steal your personal information. Almost always they get your information because you allow yourself to be tricked into giving it to them. Don’t install any program that guarantees to protect you from hackers – it’s a lie. Don’t buy any program that claims to protect you from identity theft using a firewall – it’s a lie. Hackers don’t care about you or your computer. They steal information by tricking you into giving it away – almost always this is by getting you to click on a link in an email and either downloading and installing a Trojan (and a good antivirus will protect you from this) or more likely, by asking you to verify your password and username for your bank account, PayPal account or credit card account and giving you a link to click on to do this. Neither banks, nor credit card companies, nor PayPal or any other legitimate financial institution will EVER ask you to update, change, or verify your password or account information via a link in an email. If you click the link and fill in the information, you’ll find you’ve just had your identity stolen. And no program on this planet is going to protect you from yourself.
It’s hard to find the truth anymore. It’s a shame that respected newsletters are so desperate for money that they’ll even stoop to using fear to sell a product you don’t need. If you buy products that guarantee to protect you from “hackers” and identity theft, you can be almost certain you’ve just been taken to the cleaners.
Don’t allow anyone to sell you a program using fear as a sales tactic. It’s not right and it’s not fair. But that doesn’t stop some people from doing it.
Use caution but don’t be paranoid. Don’t come down with a bad case of cautionoia. If you do you may well find yourself throwing your hard-earned money down the drain by purchasing software you don’t need.
Think before you buy. Be careful but don’t come down with a bad case of cautionia.