The Walls Have Ears – and Eyes

You are being watched. And it’s not just Uncle Sam who is spying on you. What you do in the privacy of your home is recorded and transmitted to companies that want to sell you stuff. And your boss may be watching everything you do on the computer at work.

A couple of days ago, a rogue program froze my screen with a warning that my computer was infected by viruses.Apparently, there was only one way to unfreeze the computer  – buy the bogus “virus removal” program.

I spent hours trying to get rid of the thing, but the computer was still frozen solid. I could use it only in “Safe” mode. And even then, every effort I made to clean the virus was in vain. When I restarted in “Normal” mode, there it was again.

Even though I already had a legitimate virus protection program, I finally had to buy a spy protection application (this one is called Spy Hunter) and scan the computer to find the offending virus and remove it. It took several scans before the stubborn rogue program was finally routed.

In the process, Spy Hunter discovered nearly 2,000 spooks hidden in my PC. Most of them were programs that tracked my browsing and used the information to send me spam. In some cases, the virus got hold of my PC and used it to send spam to my contacts. (So if you got some recommendation to buy something, it didn’t come from me. It came from a Trojan that seized control of  my PC.)

Another Trojan’s job was to steal my passwords. I had to change my passwords to protect sensitive sites like online banking. I think I let that one in when I opened a link in an authentic-looking “funeral notice” I received in my email. Yes, I know, I am dumb, dumb, dumb!

But I picked up the spyware without knowing it. Some of the “cookies” even came as “add-ons” to the browsers I use and others were attached to useful programs I downloaded.

Of course, this is not new. Computer spying is a curse that has been with us for many years. You may have had something similar happen to you. But did you know your computer is not the only spy in your home?

According to an article in Forbes Magazine, just about every appliance you own – from your TV to your smart phone, and even your thermostat – is collecting information on your habits and transmitting it to companies for use in their marketing plans. Potential spies include your lights, your home entertainment system, your home alarm, your webcam and home security cameras, your converter box, your modem …. any of those “smart” conveniences we buy nowadays.

And soon your handgun might be joining the spy network.

There doesn’t seem to be much we can do to protect our privacy in today’s wired world. Your home is going to be bugged, and it’s just as bad at work. There are programs your boss can buy that will record everything you do on your computer.

But – here’s a thought – which is worse, the government spying on us to keep us safe from terrorists or money-grubbing companies trying to sell us their junk and suspicious bosses looking over our shoulders?

Click for the Forbes article.

Click for more on government spying.