beware browser hijackers
Wired has a rather disturbing story about a new piece of spyware / adware that’s taking over users’ browsers — apparently without their permission — and makes itself near-impossible to uninstall. (“Sneaky Toolbar Hijacks Browsers” - 01/30/03)
Xupiter is an Internet Explorer toolbar program. Once active in a system, it periodically changes users’ designated homepages to xupiter.com, redirects all searches to Xupiter’s site, and blocks any attempts to restore the original browser settings.
The program attempts to download updates each time an affected computer boots up, and has been blamed for causing system crashes. Several versions of Xupiter also appear to download other programs, such as gambling games, which later appear in pop-up windows.
Mike Healan, a spyware expert cited by Wired, recommended that users “infected” by Xupiter to download the program Spybot Search and Destroy to remove it from their systems.
The annoyance of pop-up ads is nothing compared to programs like Xupiter. These insidious programs are like computer viruses: They install themselves without the user’s express permission (either installing themselves in the background or misleading users as to their purpose), then manipulate program settings — essentially hijacking the user’s system. Hopefully virus monitoring programs will begin to treat them as such, guarding users against both viruses / worms and spyware / adware.