Spyware tracking cookie - - ?

Apr 13th, 2005, 05:16 PM
  #1  
rex
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Spyware tracking cookie - - ?

I want to try to be very careful in how I word this, as I am not at all sure if this represents a problem, or not - - and I don't want this to be an "allegation".

I seem to have battled spyware a lot lately, and I have had rather mixed results with spyware scanning and removal software (some I have purhcased; some I have just used the free trial version).

Last night, my computer was very "thoroughly" (as if I know for sure what that means) scanned and cleaned of possible spyware files, cookies or actual applications (programs). 100 of them, to be exact - - many were, I believe just the same spyware app stored over and over under variant names. And a lot were cookies that may be not really "offenders".

But one of them was named "ehg-randomhouse.hitbox.txt" - - and it was identified as a "Spyware - tracking cookie". It seems like that would be something different from the "regular" cookie that identifies me and does auto log-in for me.

Has anyone else encountered this or anything like it? Could the randomhouse.com computers be involved and RandomHouse not know it? Is this not really even a problem? I did both Yahoo and google searches on "ehg randomhouse hitbox" and there is a .com website by this same name - - but for now I am not accessing it because I am on a comnputer which is not mine (at work). The network admin says that there have been spyware problems here also; did not mention randomhouse - - DID mention a scrabble site that I visit at times (both here and at home).

I know this is not a computer tech support forum, but if other Fodorites have this same cookie (and is it a problem?) then I guess it means something... but what?

I will also e-mail this to [email protected]

Best wishes,

Rex
rex is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 05:32 PM
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Just because "randomhouse" is built into the name does not necessarily means it's what you're thinking. I get spam e-mail with links to addresses containing PayPal, AOL, etc., all the time that look quite official.

If you're using WindowsXP, go to the Microsoft download page and check out the new Microsoft anti-spyware program. It is my understanding that Microsoft will continue to provide this free of charge, as adware and spyware has become such a problem (and this program takes care of both, updates itself, runs itself, and prevents much from getting onto your PC in the first place).

I've installed this on several computers at work (after having two reformat two W98 workstations, and others previously, a few weeks ago due to adware/spyware - which I upgraded to XP at the same time), and my PC at home. It is working so beautifully that I have decided to upgrade all remaining W98 (the program is not available for W98) workstations to XP.

I was too slow to change to XP both at work and at home. This one really is "more secure" and "more stable", despite the usual difficulties.

The free (Adaware, Spybot, etc.) programs work okay, but you have to update them regularly and run them.
djkbooks is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 05:48 PM
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The microsoft anti-spyware software will have to be updated with new definitions, as well - but MS will probably run the updates in the background so the user doesn't notice.

The Ad-Aware freeware program does a very good job (www.lavasoft.de). Another good program for killing trojans running on your system is Trojan Guarder. It's a 30-use free trial program you can download on www.download.com.

I'm an IS analyst and spyware is a HUGE problem. I have to clean (or re-image it it's too bad) a pc at least once a week.
Kayb95 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 05:51 PM
  #4  
rex
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<<Just because "randomhouse" is built into the name does not necessarily means it's what you're thinking. I get spam e-mail with links to addresses containing PayPal, AOL, etc., all the time that look quite official.>>

PayPal, AOL, Citibank, eBay... those I understand...

but randomhouse?

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Apr 13th, 2005, 05:54 PM
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The Microsoft program updates itself if you turn on "Autoupdater".
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Apr 13th, 2005, 06:02 PM
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Well there are cookies and cookies ...
The "hitbox" is a service for tracking how often advertisements are loaded as part of the Fodors pages. While they do record some information, such as your IP, they do not access your computer directly, nor, unless you are running a web server on a static IP, know who you are.

These cookies are not the cookie Fodors sets to facilitate your staying logged in. Using AdAware is a good way of keeping them under control. Although Spybot Search & Destroy provides more information about what each cookie's privacy policy is.

If you have your security set high enough on Internet Explorer sometimes you will see a little red bar on the bottom right. This appears when a cookie that violates your security level has been refused.

These cookies are not the ones that gather more specific information from your computer directly. Those are usually embedded in some small program, not necessarily spyware.[such as gator.com]. One of the issues with google's toolbar is the using of your browsing habits for their purposes. Fortunately you can choose not to activate that part of the toolbar. What you need to be the most careful about is the little bits of software you download to facilitate your browsing.
sfowler is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 06:07 PM
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Rex, companies can use spyware to track the kinds of websites you visit so they can kindly (ha!) target their advertising to you. Not all spyware is malicious (malware - that can install programs to capture passwords, personal info, etc...), but it is all a nuisance.
Kayb95 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 06:12 PM
  #8  
rex
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The network admin led me to believe that the apps that had hit were using the server for "lots of bandwidth consumption" (doing what?) - - that doesn't mean necessarily stealing info - - but it could mean using the site as a launching pad for "pinging" other IP addresses, seeking out other computers to "hit".

Tracking advertising/web site visits info (specifically, to track specific content) IS stealing something from me, especially if it is communicated back to (adware) "mothership" to form a profile of "me" (as if they know for sure who is actually sitting at a computer).
rex is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 06:21 PM
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I've seen spyware bring small networks to a grinding halt. One of my satelite offices used to use a DSL line and they were pretty much dead in the water for the good part of a day while we cleaned up the spyware from their machines. It's a real pain!
Kayb95 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 07:34 PM
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Interesting about the randomhouse thing, because our home computers all churned and grounded to a halt several weeks ago - with regular spyware clean-up and some more elaborate attempts to eliminate specific sites, we are still running a spyware program every few days - and things are still showing up - and always there is the same randomhouse address you mention.
gail is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 07:38 PM
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I had a lot of problems with spyware over the past month, too. Ironically, I found that one of the ANTI spyware programs on my system was actually the source of most of the issues as it had apparently become infected with something. I disabled it and it has resulted in a dramatic improvement.
Flyboy is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 07:39 PM
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Gail, some of the spyware can become so embedded in the registry, it's very difficult to get rid of.

You may want to boot up in "safe mode" and run a scan with your anti-spyware software. It will find stuff that it can't get rid of once all the processes have started running. The Trojan Guarder software also helps with some of the really stubborn stuff.

Also, check out your Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel. If you see programs like Bargain Buddy, TV Media, websearch toolbars, etc... you can uninstall them - spyware.

And you can pretty much count on any site offering free downloads of screensavers, wallpaper, cursors, weather/time updates, etc... are loaded with spyware.
Kayb95 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 07:54 PM
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"Ironically, I found that one of the ANTI spyware programs on my system was actually the source of most of the issues"

This is very common. Many of the supposed anti-spyware software and pop-up blockers are actually some of the most notorious spyware/malware out there. The proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing.
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Apr 13th, 2005, 07:58 PM
  #14  
rex
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Thanks for that info gail... but of course, it actually doesn't establish anything that we both had this one cookie (i assume that yours was part of the domain of the file name of a cookie).

For what it's worth, it appears that ewido has finally identified and quarantined all of my "infestations".

It was Bargain Buddy that I had a lot of trouble with - - and I certainly didn't trust its uninstall program, which "came back" in its "Bullseye Network" directory with every re-boot after I had flushed them out. All kinds of synonym names: bargains.exe, exdl.exe exdl0 and exdl1, exangel, exul and exul1, exclean, instsrv.exe adv.exe and adx.exe in multiple ocations, many more - - and then there was all that SAH (ShopAtHome) stuff!
rex is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 04:49 AM
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I've stopped using IE these days and have gone over to Firefox
You can read about it at http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/
MissPrism is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 04:55 AM
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Kayb95 -- thanks for the suggestion about safe mode and add/remove.

Rex -- your problem wasn't the randonmhouse cookie -- it was the Buddy thing. I get lots of "hitbox" cookies as that company is used by many sites.

And yes, those cookies "steal", but the trick is setting your security in such a way to block the most egregious of them without blocking your ability to surf.
sfowler is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 05:07 AM
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MissPrism is right-on: STOP using Internet Explorer - use Firefox.

Next step (a bigger one): stop using Windows - look into using Linux or when you upgrade your machine consider a Mac. OS X is fantastic and is set for a major new release:
http://www.apple.com/macosx/

I've been using Macs for 15 years or so. Zero viruses have effected me, zero lost data, zero spyware... and I don't have any anti-virus software [now my machine will probably blow up today ;-) ]
G_Hopper is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 05:20 AM
  #18  
ira
 
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Hi all,

My local Computer consultant cleaned me up and installed Spyware Blaster (also good for Firefox) and X-cleaner.

SB has worked well for me.

I use XC to clean up only occasionally as it removes all of my cookies.



ira is online now  
Apr 14th, 2005, 06:11 AM
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I agree. Firefox rocks. But if you are still on windows 98 it tends to crash the system. [This is a known bug] So I will have to wait until I replace my antique, but beloved desktop with something racier
sfowler is offline  
Apr 14th, 2005, 08:29 AM
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I also use Firefox 98% of the time,every once in a while I find it's not compatible with a website (sometimes from merchants who have ordering forms)

thanks for the tip above on the free Microsoft Beta anti-spyware
I already have Norton and Adware, but downloaded Beta as well

elaine is online now  

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