Lacking any scientific data, here are some wildly speculative claims based on nothing but scattered experience and observation: 73.4 percent of personal computers have adware/spyware running on them. Of those, 59.2 percent have hijacked browsers, 39.4 percent have dramatically reduced functionality as a result of adware, while fully 19% have been rendered utterly useless.
Yes, the data is made up entirely, and yet it seems to fit with what I’ve seen from computers in the barbershop, friends’ houses, immediate and extended family members, business associates, friends of friends, etc. If viruses were the threat from two years ago, it seems that adware is the issue of 2004—2005.
The costs are huge. It has affected millions of people and their web experience. People have spent thousands on computers only to find that they don’t seem to live up to their promise. Most users have no clue about what to do about it, believing that only geeks can fix computers. This is really pathetic, even catastrophic.
In every case of computer malfunction that I’ve seen in the last six months, however, there is one solution that seems to resolve every existing problem and infallibly prevent all future problems (of the current sort).
For now, let’s cut the blah blah and get to the download (XP users only): Microsoft Beta Antispyware. Or you can go here and pick the top download. There is a reason it is the top. It is the single most important software package to come out in a long time. It is absolutely essential for any computer user today. It will protect your investment against the most egregious threat on the internet today.
It will ask you whether you want to “validate” your copy of Windows. You can if you want to. But you don’t have to. If you are running a bootleg copy or just don’t want to bother turning your machine upside down to find out the validation number (a huge pain in the neck), you can blast right past that validation and get the program with no reduction in functionality. It’s free.
This program will scan your entire computer and zap any and all adware. Just follow the instructions. Also, it will continue to run in the background and keep all adware at bay. It will update itself on its own. Meanwhile, you can remove any other anti-adware programs on your computer (Ad-Adware, Spybot, HiJackThis!, etc.). None come anywhere near the functionality of this MS program.
Even if you don’t think you need it, it is smart to download it anyway. It is amazing that most users, and even many among the geek class, don’t know about this. It is a fantastic piece of machinery, super advanced in every way. It is a quick download and a fast fix that solves most every problem. It is long past time for Microsoft to add it to its list of high priority updates. Word is that MS will make it part of the next edition of XP. Good, but there’s no time to wait.
A few anecdotes. A friend of mine snagged a great laptop from Dell recently, but it became completely unusable in the course of one month. This program fixed everything that was wrong. The same happened at the local barbershop. So too with extended family’s computers. Students at work at the Mises Institute solved all their problems with this download.
How do you know if this nasty stuff it is on your machine? Sometimes your homepage changes. Sometimes you find that a strange search engine is your new default. You get the sense that something is running on your machine but you don’t know what. You get regular popups even when you are not using your computer. You get strange error messages that you can’t make heads nor tails out of.
If adware/spyware is on you machine, it doesn’t suggest that you have done anything wrong. It doesn’t mean that you have been using unsavory sites or going where you shouldn’t. It does not mean that you are an idiot or that you don’t know not to click on dumb pop ups. You can get this stuff through normal use.
The problem results from Microsoft itself, particular the myriad security holes in Internet Explorer, that big blue E on your desktop that most people think means: The Internet. More precisely, the problem is due to a class of commercial leaches who found holes in Internet Explorer and exploited them. Microsoft is at fault to the same extent that a homeowner without locks on the doors is responsible for robberies. As an institution, Microsoft underestimated the power of malice.
With MS Antispyware, however, we have a company finally coming up with the solution to a problem that it had created (more or less), which is all to the good if way too late. The program itself wasn’t even MS’s invention. It was created by a 2000 startup called Giant Software. MS acquired it in 2004 and unrolled its improved version of this masterpiece earlier this year. Word has spread slowly. I found out about it from the alert David Veksler.
If MS were somehow charging for this program, there might be some plausibility to the theory that MS is making bad software in order to profit from the fixes. But actually the whole theory that MS is the devil is just absurd. It has always been on the cutting edge in terms of end-user friendly environments, and that has often meant death from a thousand cuts. Of course, if MS could have stopped adware before it started, it would have done so.
MS has no more incentive to shut down computers than Honda has incentive to make cars that stop running. The world is an imperfect place, and innovation often comes at the price of imperfection. In any case, bygones can be bygones with this program. Its existence is a proof that the market is snappy and working, if only a bit behind schedule.
Now, this program prevents your use of Internet Explorer from disabling your machine. But if you want to get to the root of the problem, you have to address the problem of IE itself. That is where the Firefox comes in — another download that every savvy Windows user needs. But that is another subject for another day.
Right now, there are computers to save from certainly calamity.