Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bloghop With Care 

Take a look up at the upper right corner of this page. As frequent readers of Blogger weblogs know, there ia a "Next Blog" button on my blog and virtually all other Blogger pages. Clicking on this button will take you to a random Blogger weblog. I find it a good way to uncover decent blogs, even if it takes about twenty times to find something any good.

Jeff Simmermon calls our attention to a story that, at first glance, might rain on the "Next Blog" parade. Apparently, Alvin Borromeo at MT Law Blog landed on a dud: he got a virus from a random blog:

Yesterday I was surfing the web on my home computer and hit the "next blog" icon a few times to see what's out there. One of the hits was nana*** (the actual name has numbers in place of the astisks). Pop-ups immediately appeared on my computer immediately after I visited the nana blog, even though I have a pop-up blocker installed. I started getting messages about system resources, etc. I immediately closed all of my browsers, but it was too late. When I re-opened my browser it went to a different home page. My computer was hijacked!

Boy, that will ruin your day right quick.

Several people went to work after hearing the story, and were able to get some answers. The likely cause: some naive blogger cut-and-paste some bit of code designed to play music when the page is loaded. Alas, he/she also copied some pretty nasty spyware along with the music.

It was noted that this really had nothing to do with either Blogger or the "Next Blog" button. Any webpage designer could do the same thing, whether the webpage is on Blogger or not. So in theory, you could surf to any unknown site (e.g. on GeoCities) and have this happen to you. Staying away from the "Next Blog" button isn;t going to necessarily save you.

It was also noted that this problem was virtually eliminated by using a non-Internet Explorer browser, and was confined to computers running Windows. Conclusions:

1.) Macs and Linnux systems should be safe.


I cannot stress this enough. Every damn computer virus problem seems to be related to IE, dump it. Firefox has all the bells and whistles of IE, without the security headaches. I only use Internet Explorer if I have no choice.

3.) Get a strong antivirus program. Pay for it, it's worth it. I like my McAfee.

If you have the proper precautions, the "Next Blog" button should not bring any unexpected nasty suprises. Even if you choose not to click, it's prudent to protect yourself as much as possible.

With that out of the way, I wish enough smart people would go to work to prevent this from happening to our cell phones. That would help me to sleep easier at night, although I suppose anyone who reads my blog will probably say it likely won't matter.

Sadly, some of the popup blockers have stopped working. This started last week, initially with Safari, and it spread to both FireFox and Opera. It's not an infection of any kind, rather a method to bypass popups has started.

Maybe the best way is to just go back and boycott sites that use popups?

Sure... and movies will remove ads from something that I'm PAYING to see too.
Guess what. I got Firefox today. Our whole firm did as well.

Alvin Borromeo over at MT Law Blog.
Dear Alvin:

I'm so glad to hear that. I thought the tone on the MetaFilter page seemed a bit harsh to you; most of us (myself included) are on the internet without full knowledge of what's out there.

It's a shame you had to go through what you did, and I appreciate you sharing your experience with the blogosphere. We all really do learn from each other.

As for the spyware, Bill is right. It is just a matter of time before blogs get as corrupted with these things as the general internet. It will always be an arms race with spammers, hackers, online vandals on one side, and the rest of us on the other. We will never be fully protected.
Ben, I fully expected some critisism for my "foolishness." My main goal, however was to warn readers of my blog of the possibility of getting spyware. I'm glad I accomplished my mission. Besides, attornies are heartless anyways ; )

Now that it's out in the open, I hope Blogger does something about it, and that more people get Firefox, or at least Microsoft "fixes" Internet Explorer.
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