You might be thinking that the most dangerous thing on the Internet might one of these: phishing, pharming, spyware, viruses, Trojans, worms – or any number of other things that make life unpleasant, even dangerous, on the Internet. You’d be wrong. The most dangerous thing on the Internet isn’t created by a criminal or teenage hacker – or a cartel of villains bent on stealing passwords by the millions. No. The most dangerous thing on the Internet is…misinformation.
Just today, I was reading another computer newsletter and the author was raving about a particular antivirus and antispyware program. He extolled its virtues and guaranteed it would protect your computer from all sorts of nasty things. In fact, if you installed this program you’d be safe from adware, spyware, viruses, Trojans, worms, phishing, and all other malicious files. At the end of the article was an advertisement for the product he had just written about.
After that article followed another article about why a one-way firewall (like the one in Windows XP, or the default setting for the firewall in Vista) was no good. You need two-way protection! He went on to explain that though Windows has inbound protection it offers no outbound protection. Outbound protection is necessary to stop all these malicious files and Trojans that may sneak their way onto your system from “phoning home” – communicating with a Web server controlled by the malicious file’s creator. Of course, right after the article followed an advertisement for the best two-way firewall money can by.
Think of the logic he presents. First he said if you buy this super-duper antivirus/antispyware program he recommends (and sells) nothing will be able to penetrate your defenses – nothing! In the next breath he wants to sell you a two-way firewall to protect you from the nasties that may be lurking about on your computer. Flawed logic. According to him, if you used the security program he was selling, nothing malicious could ever get on your computer that could “phone home” in the first place. So why do you need the two-way firewall then if no malicious files can ever get past the security program he’s selling?
Misinformation and confused logic abound. Most people find computer-related things confusing – even boring. Anyone who wants to proclaim him or herself and expert can be one and the trouble is no one knows who or what to believe anymore. Confusion abounds and misinformation serves only one purpose – to make the Web a more dangerous place.
Another example: Cookies. There have been thousands of articles – tens of thousands – written about cookies. Some of them make cookies seem worse than Trojans, viruses, spyware, worms, phishing and other malicious things. They’re not. They’re text files. They can be deleted with a simple right-click/delete. They don’t execute, they don’t save your keystrokes or monitor your keyboard. They can’t even “track you across the Internet” as some suggest. Making cookies seem like the Attila The Hun of the Internet needlessly causes people to worry. There are much more important things to worry about than Internet cookies. And we’ve always told you this.
Here’s another. An article which appeared on ZDNet, a trusted source of Internet news, software, computer tips and tricks, and so forth – called the latest round of emails about a fake Facebook password reset which carried a Trojan attachment, “spam”. It wasn’t spam. Spam means unsolicited commercial email – emails that tries to sell you something. The email with the Trojan was not spam, it was a mass-mailing sent by a botnet. The email that ZDNet referred to as “spam” was not really spam. It was not trying to sell you anything or trying to get you to click a link to visit a site in order to sell you something or make money from ads. The sole purpose of that fake Facebook message was to trick you into opening the attachment and steal your Facebook password information and/or to infect you computer with a Trojan and make you part of a botnet. This type of email isn’t spam. Spam tries to sell you something or make money from you in some way. The last thing a spammer wants is to infect your computer. The Facebook Password Reset scam wasn’t an unsolicited commercial email – therefore it wasn’t spam.
So when the NY Times of the Internet can’t even get it straight, how in the world can the average computer user get it straight? Misinformation spreads across the Internet at the speed of light.
Not to toot our own horn here, but we could be making a heck of a lot more money if we started hyping Norton Internet Security at $59.95. We could make $18.00 a sale. But we don’t. We recommend AVAST – it’s free and we make nothing. We could be recommending a firewall for $29.95 and making $12.00 a sale, but we don’t. Windows firewall is just fine for most home users – assuming they’re using good anti-virus and good anti-spyware protection, and they keep them updated.
We’ll never hype something and sell it to you unless we are sold on it ourselves – and we use it ourselves. We will never try to sell you something you don’t need or sell you something when we know there’s a better free program that does the same task and just as well. So we’re struggling for money a bit right now but we’ll never recommend something we don’t believe in, you don’t need, or we don’t use. No matter what.
It’s hard these days to get the truth about anything. Cable news if full of news that is only half true – slanted toward the right or left, spun in one way or the other. If you don’t do your homework and find sources you can really trust, you won’t be informed, you’ll be misinformed. There are always those in the world who will try to grab your attention and fill your head with fear in order to make a buck.
We will never trade your trust for money. It’s really too bad that so many do.