Thursday, June 20, 2013

Startled by Malware

Opening this blog this morning, I was startled to see an ad appearing immediately above the title in new space created by something. The background color was the same as in this blog. The ad overlaid it (its content was attractive mortgage rates); below the ad, in gray letters and small print appeared the words: “Ads not by this site.” At first—unfairly to Google, to be sure—I thought that Google was doing it. Therefore, to check on this, I went to other Google blog sites known to me and—sure enough, the same sort of thing was present on those: ads above the blog itself. Soon, by using that phrase itself in a search, I discovered that the ads were positioned on my machine by malware. I found the method to remove them.

I use the Chrome browser. The ad-serving malware comes as an Extension designed to run with Chrome (and presumably other browsers as well). It can be removed as follows. Click the logo in the upper right corner of Chrome (three dark horizontal bars). A menu called “Customize and control Google Chrome” then opens. On that menu, select Tools; on the new menu that opens, select Extensions. A window opens showing all active extension active or not. Those active show a checkmark next to the word Enable. The offender in my case had the name “Start Now.” I was told that it had been placed there by a third party, thus without either Chrome’s or my own explicit approval. Unchecking that Enable and then clicking on the garbage can icon made the extension disappear. And afterwards the ads were gone—on Ghulf Genes as well as on the other blogs I had visited earlier. For good measure I also fired up Microsoft Internet Explorer. No ads there either. So, for the moment…

But what is all this? It is an illustration of the totally amoral and hysterical greed (or anxiety) of our entrepreneurial culture. There is only one way to get money from the Internet (unless you are a communications company and therefore have subscription revenues): by advertising. Any content whatever will do. And the system is forgiving enough to permit these bacteria and viruses to invade a system—yes, despite my own virtual immune system, which is called Norton 360; that system, by the way, also costs real dollars….

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