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Thursday, July 31, 2014

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One Step Ahead: Almanac Security Tips - 2014

In each issue, Penn's Journal of Record, The Almanac publishes helpful tips and hints for dealing with information security and privacy matters. This page is a collection of all those published thus far.
New! You can now receive new One-Step-Ahead Security and Privacy Tips automatically!
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Table of Contents (view all)

Heartbleed OpenSSL Vulnerability
Security and Privacy Tips for World Travelers
Filing Taxes Online This Year? Take Steps to Protect Your Information!
If your computer runs Windows XP, you must update it now!
Why Should You Report Security Incidents? And How Do You Report One?
Photo and Video Privacy Issues
The Password is Dead, Long Live the Password!
Data Privacy Month: NSA Surveillance Panel at the National Constitution Center
Protecting Your Finances During This Year’s Holiday Shopping Season
Beware of Phishing E-mails in the Wake of Typhoon Haiyan
No E-mail from Penn Will Ask For Your Username/Password or SSN
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act: Does It Apply to Your Website?
October: National Cyber Security Awareness Month; Free Secure Disposal of Paper and Electronics
What Basic Rules Protect Student Information at Penn? (September 2013)
Protecting Privacy and Security on Penn + Box

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Tagged with virus , spyware

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - Almanac Vol. 56, No. 21

Spyware: Who's "watching" you - and why?

It's no longer news that all sorts of hardware and, especially, software exist for the specific purpose of surreptitiously tracking what people do with their personal computers, which websites they visit (and purchase from), whom they communicate with, and what sensitive data reside on their systems. Known generically for years as "spyware" and "adware", these programs have now been lumped by some experts into the classification of "privacy-invasive software" along with other varieties like "stealware" and "scareware".

Whatever the motivation of the people who write and spread these programs (and there are literally hundreds of reasons), the ongoing danger is that computer users still tend to collect multiple infections because, like bacteria, spyware/adware tend to "colonize" a host
 computer, and the users are rarely aware that the software is there. And of course, that's the point – the creators don't want you to know it's there. In many cases, spyware/adware is "piggybacked" onto "free" software that's often described as Internet "optimizers" or "accelerators", and is often part of the installation of popular peer-to-peer filesharing software
such as eDonkey and KaZaa (yet another reason to avoid those programs). And, the term "drive-by download" has been coined to describe intrusive software downloaded and installed from questionable websites without the visitor's knowledge.

In addition to the dangers of your activities and information falling into the hands of others, once the level of infection reaches "critical mass," your computer will simply slow to a crawl as it tries to run all the "parasite" processes that produce, among other things, endless "pop-up" ads.

The first step in combatting spyware/adware is to acquire and use anti-spyware software. For Windows users, the University has a site license for Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0.5, which will help to protect your system. It can be downloaded from The newest version of Mac OS has some spyware protection built in. Avoid "optimizers", "accelerators" and "cool toolbars" - they tend to be "carriers" and besides, they generally don't work anyway.

Wikipedia has an excellent, and more detailed discussion at


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