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Festive spam and Xmas spies need advent vigilance

webwatch

I don't want to sound like Scrooge but the virus, spam and spyware-writers won't be hanging up their mouses just because it isYuletide. I've given up on that old hippy notion that the above might be cool dude hackers dedicated to the disinterested and academically virtuous task of cracking internet defences because (a) they are there or (b) they belong to intercontinental corporations and top-secret government agencies which should be impregnable and aren't.

Although it is conceivable that virus-writers merely represent the dark side of grey-area hacking, the people who originate spam and spyware do it simply because there is potentially lots of money in it for them.The former rely on the scattergun effect: just a few mugs from hundreds of thousands represent money in the bank.

Spyware is insidious because it enters your computer system silently on the back of other downloads, cookies and programmes and lurks there, reporting your every move to some backroom marketing department. Download the free Spybot and AdAware applications (www. safer-networking. org and www. lavasoft. com) and run them both to see how riddled your registry, cookies folder and sundry others are with spyware. The conventional and good advice is to run them both regularly because each misses spyware the other will pick up; and alternate which one you use first.

You will already have an anti-virus application, such as Norton's or McAfee's. And you will have a firewall installed. Won't you? But neither of these stop spyware- and the pundits are worried that viruses may start finding their way in via spyware access methods.

To fight spam, set up exclusions in Outlook Express (Tools/Message Rules/ Mail), move to an internet service provider which runs a general spam filter, and maybe change to a very long email address. But as with ties, book tokens and shirts for Xmas, don't raise your hopes.

sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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