Spyware and Phishing;
Report Includes Survey Results, Software Ratings and Tips to
Avoid Online Hazards Such as ID Theft
August 10, 2004
"For now, keeping spam out of your life requires setting up a fortress around your computer with help from your Internet service provider and spam-blocking software," said James Guest, president of Consumers Union. "While consumers are busy protecting themselves, service providers and the software industry have work to do."
On January 1, 2004 the first federal law regulating junk e- mail, the CAN-SPAM Act, went into effect and has resulted in a few prosecutions of people charged with spamming by the Department of Justice. But a CR survey of 2,000 email users indicates that the new law hasn't reduced spam yet. In fact, most people who received spam in the previous month said it outnumbered legitimate messages.
To avoid spam, Consumer Reports recommends that consumers:
The Consumer Reports tests found that MailFrontier Desktop (Matador) ($30) is a good choice for consumers who want maximum spam blocking and don't mind checking for valid e-mail that was mistakenly blocked. For consumers who prefer to minimize valid e-mail mistakenly classified as spam, while still getting a very good spam blocker, CR recommends Alladin/Mailshell SpamCatcher Universal ($30)
In the CR survey of households with at-home Internet access, nearly 7 percent said they had permanently lost important data files because of a virus, 64 percent said that they had detected a virus on their computers in the past two years and more than 12 percent had found a virus 10 or more times in that period.
The survey also found that consumers aren't doing all they can. Fourteen percent of broadband users don't use a firewall. To avoid viruses, Consumer Reports recommends that consumers:
The Consumer Reports tests found that Tend Micro PC-cillin 2004 ($50) and Norton AntiVirus 2004 9.0 ($50) are good choices for consumers looking for full-featured, easy-to-use antivirus programs.
Spyware Sneaks In
In a nationally-representative survey of more than 2,000 households with at-home Internet access, CR found that 36 percent reported that their home page had been changed - a common symptom of spyware. Spyware isn't a single type of software. The term covers a diverse range of applications. Like spam, spyware is often used by third-party marketers associated with reputable companies whose products they are hawking. To avoid spyware, Consumer Reports recommends that consumers:
For maximum spyware detection, Lavasoft Ad-aware 6 Standard (free) and PestPatrol ($40) came out at the top of the Consumer Reports tests.
Phishing: Identity-Theft Spam
Phishing, the sending of fraudulent e-mail that solicits confidential information, such as your password, by impersonating banks or other institutions online, is on the rise. Consumer Reports recommends the following steps to outwit online ID thieves:
Two sidebars, "Phishing: The latest ID theft scam" and "What you can do to protect yourself online," will be available for free on http://www.ConsumerReports.org .