Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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CounterSpy

June 2005, Week 1 -- Fire the Web-Site Designer

   Macromedia has the niftiest web site control program we have ever seen. It's called "Contribute," and it lets you dismiss the person who updates your web site and make any changes on your own.

   Using "Macromedia Contribute" to change a web site turned out to be as easy as editing a page with a pencil. In fact, the icon you click on to make changes is shaped like a pencil. Rest easy about security: the only person who can make these changes is one who has a password for the site.

   Making changes turned out to be a piece of cake; you can even make changes to pop-ups. And any number can play. A copy of the web site can be made available to other people so they can make suggest things they think would improve the site. The copies come with a headline that says "Please review this page." Employees and associates often have great ideas on how to improve a site; but only you, the keeper of the keys, have the final say on which ones go in.

   Contribute, version 3, lists for $149 at the Macromedia web site: www.macromedia.com. This was not only the easiest way we ever saw for updating and changing a web site, but the program came with over 200 templates you can use to design your own site.

The trouble with spyware

   We've written a lot about spyware and so has everybody else. We hope these last few notes will settle the matter for a while. Then we can go fishing, and we don't mean "phishing."

   The trouble with spyware is it's like the old missile race during the cold war. Every time there was a new missile the other side would build an anti-missile missile. Then you had to build a better missile, which led to building a better anti ...  But you get the idea. Spyware is something like that, but without the warheads.

   The best anti-missile to date is probably "Anonymizer Total Privacy Suite," which lets you browse the web as someone who just dropped in from Mars. The program has been around for a while but this recent version corrects a serious problem of the old one: that some web sites wouldn't come up when they saw you were "anonymizing."

   That's because commercial web sites want to know who's coming aboard. Sometimes it's just curiosity, but more often it's to collect marketing data -- like where you live, how old you are, what you do for a living, and even how much money you make. Some people, being basically innocent and nice, supply all that information. Then the sponsor of that web site either sends you notes on stuff to buy, and/or sells your information to someone else who send you notes on stuff to buy. It is in this way that we accumulate spam and spies.

  It didn't take long for companies to learn the "IP" address for visits made using Anonymizer and they simply blocked those visitors. The new version fixes that by changing the IP address every day. IP. stands for "Internet Protocol" and every connection has a specific numbered address. If you use what's called a "dial-up connection," which means you are connecting through a regular telephone line, that I.P. address changes every time you log on to the internet. But if you're using a high-speed connection, like cable, the I.P. address remains the same for anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The longer it stays the same, the better the chances of someone placing spies or hacking into your system.

  So Anonymizer makes you anonymous by changing your apparent I.P. address every day and then guards you further by allowing you to encrypt any information you do want to give out.

  Along with identity protection, Anonymizer also detects and removes spyware, key-loggers, adware, hijackers and other nasty bits. It erases unwanted hidden files and tracking cookies, which provide information on your movements. Once again, like the missile/anti-missile problem, conditions are always subject to change.

   Anonymizer is a subscription system. It costs $50 a year and that includes any upgrades during the period. It also works best when used with the Firefox Internet browser from Mozilla. You can get that by going to www.getfirefox.com. Over 50 million people have already downloaded Firefox, which they typically use instead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Anonymizer also works with Internet Explorer, but you don't get as many features. It does not work with America Online's browser. Find out about additional features at www.anonymizer.com.

Spy-Counterspy

  "CounterSpy" is a new spyware catcher and blocker from SunBelt Software www.sunbelt-software.com. It costs only $20 and Bob has been running it for several weeks and likes it. Other reviews are mixed.

   "PC World" magazine gave it their top rating and noted it caught 85-92 percent of all the spyware on their machines. "PC Magazine," on the other hand, rated CounterSpy as just "fair." A common complaint from users is that the program "hangs" during installation and won't continue. Bob had the same problem at first, but after kicking the computer a couple of times he got it to install.

   Microsoft recently came out with its own program, called "Microsoft AntiSpyware," which is still in beta testing and so can be had for free. It is available as a download from the Microsoft home page www.microsoft.com under the heading "popular downloads." In initial tests it has been catching over 90 percent of incoming spyware.

NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.