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Spyware – virtual machines and security practices

Spyware Doctor 5

Using a virtual machine (such as a pre-built Browser Appliance for VMWare Player) can inhibit infection by spyware, malware, and viruses. Virtual machines provide seperate environments, so if spyware enters the virtual environment, the host computer remains unaffected. One can also use snapshots to remove one’s private information, transporting the snapshot of the VM.

This environment resembles a sandbox. It has drawbacks in that it uses more memory (compared to a standalone browser) and it uses a lot of disk space.

Security practices

To deter spyware, computer users have found a number of techniques useful in addition to installing anti-spyware software.

Many system operators install a web browser other than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE), such as Opera or Mozilla Firefox – though such web browsers have also suffered from some security vulnerabilities. Not a single browser ranks as safe, because in the case of spyware the security comes with the person who uses the browser.

Some Internet Service Providers — particularly colleges and universities — have taken a different approach to blocking spyware: they use their network firewalls and web proxies to block access to Web sites known to install spyware. On March 31, 2005, Cornell University’s Information Technology department released a report detailing the behavior of one particular piece of proxy-based spyware, Marketscore, and the steps the university took to intercept it. [1] Many other educational institutions have taken similar steps against Marketscore and other spyware. Spyware programs which redirect network traffic cause greater technical-support problems than programs which merely display ads or monitor users’ behavior, and so may attract institutional attention more readily.

Spyware may get installed via certain shareware programs offered for download. Downloading programs only from reputable sources can provide some protection from this source of attack. One site, CleanSoftware.org, founded as an alternative to other popular Windows software sites, offers only software verified not to contain “nasties” such as spyware. Recently, C|Net revamped its download directory: it has stated that it will only keep files that pass inspection by Ad-Aware and Spyware Doctor.

References

  1. Schuster, Steve. “Blocking Marketscore: Why Cornell Did It”. Cornell University, Office of Information Technologies. March 31, 2005.

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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