Joe Lavin

January 4, 2005

Spyware is Forever

Right now, as you read this, the spyware on your computer is diligently transmitting back to the World Office of Spyware Headquarters (WOOSH) the fact that you're reading a humor column. Soon, tiny evil robots at WOOSH, located in a secret underwater lair just off the coast of New Zealand, will assimilate this information into a report that Dr. Spyware will use as part of his devious scheme for World Domination™. Unless, that is, James Bond can stop him before he destroys the world.

Or something like that. For the few who don't know, spyware is software secretly placed on your computer that tracks where you go on the Internet and launches pop-up ad after pop-up ad while you try to surf. It's the reason your computer is running so slowly today. It's also the reason all those pornographic pop-up ads show up on your husband's computer. Really, it's the spyware. At any rate, we are in the midst of a spyware epidemic. A survey by Earthlink and Webroot has shown that 90% of all computers contain some form of spyware, and that's not even counting all the crap that Microsoft puts on your computer.

I realize that the whole point of spyware is advertising, but I still wonder about people who are so bored that they must track where I go on the Internet. Don't these people have anything better to do? Are they ever in for a surprise when they see the tedious places I visit on the Internet. That'll be my contribution to technology in the 21st Century. I'll be the one who single-handedly eliminates spyware when all the makers of it give up out of boredom because they were tracking my Internet habits.

"Oh, no. He's not reading about the Red Sox again. He just read that article…. And now he's searching for himself on Google. Didn't he just do that?"

After a few more months of tracking me online, these guys will all give up their evil spyware ways and leave the Internet entirely. That's my plan at least. Take that, Dr. Spyware.

While there are pop-up blockers that can save you from spyware, there's still not a lot that can be done to eliminate it entirely. But that's not stopping the state of California, where a new law has been introduced that would make spyware illegal. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger supports the legislation and plans to sign it into law if it passes. You know, just as soon as he gets the spyware off his own computer. ("Help, Maria! Make the spyware go away!") Nevertheless, it's a novel concept. Let's send Arnold after all the sleazy makers of spyware. Really, the bastards deserve no less.

Then again, with our luck, the spyware people probably have a powerful lobby, and the law won't even get through the California legislature. Besides, I'm sure the spyware lobby knew about it long ago and have had plenty of time to plan a counterattack. Let's face it. Whoever was writing the law probably had spyware on his computer.

According to the BBC, the Consumer Protection Against Spyware Act would outlaw "the installation of software that takes control of another computer." It would also require that companies reveal whether their software will install spyware, but that's just the problem. We are almost always informed about spyware. It's right there in all that gibberish that we don't bother reading just before we hit the "Accept" button. Just give us something free, and we will install anything on our machines. If only the Soviets could have held on until the Digital Age, then they could have easily won the cold war.

"In exchange for compromising the national security of the United States of America, we will give you access to any song ever recorded in the history of the world."

"Do you have any Air Supply?"

"Yes, their entire catalog."

"Cool. Where do I sign up?"

And so it would seem that we are doomed. As more and more computers are infected, Dr. Spyware and WOOSH will gradually take over the world. Sadly, James Bond will be of no assistance. He's too busy looking at all the pornographic pop-ups.

©2005 Joe Lavin

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