The Practical Mac

Windows Is Watching

- 2001.10.30

One recent evening, I was sitting at home, connected to the Internet and checking email on my trusty iBook 466, when I received the following disturbing email message:

Every move you make on your computer is being logged. From the Internet sites you visit to the documents you open, you are being tracked. Even if you attempt to delete these tracks, Windows retains secret log files. Deleting Internet caches and searching for history files would take hours of work manually. <Product name> deletes all these items from your computer automatically and as often as you like!

<Product name>, the most effective, user friendly, cost efficient way to wipe your hard drive clean of all logs that your computer records while you surf the Web.

No more worrying about what people will see on your computer.

Go to this url to download http://www.<product website>.net

Note: I have edited the message not only to hide the name of the product advertised, but also to correct spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Imagine my alarm! Here I am checking email and surfing the Net on my Apple computer running Mac OS 9.2.1, and somehow Windows is not only watching everything I do, but keeping track of it, too. Not only do I (obviously) not have Windows installed on the iBook, I didn't even have Airport turned on. How'd they do that?!? That's certainly one incredible little product Redmond makes if it can do all that to a Mac user. I can only guess what Windows might be capable of doing to someone who actually has the program installed. Makes you wonder if OS X might be spying on the Windows crowd, too. The implications for corporate espionage are boundless!

BULLETIN: We now interrupt this column for a miscellaneous, only semi-related rambling: Speaking of espionage, the front page of this week's issue of Network World carries the following headline, "Former federal agent calls [Windows] XP a threat to national security." My initial reaction to this story was that any Windows version running on a computer which holds government secrets is a de facto threat to national security. Sorry, that was a low blow, but sometimes my self-control wears down and I just can't resist.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled column. The above-quoted email preys on the (not unwarranted) security fears of computer users in general and Windows user in particular. Since the tragic events of September 11, the government has warned the Information Technology sector to be on alert for possible attempts at cyber-terrorism. With such recent viruses as Code Red and Nimda (both of which were basically nonevents for Mac users) appearing even before Sept. 11, this is certainly a prudent suggestion. Everyone - from the government to corporations to the casual home computer user - probably has some information stored on their computer that they would rather not be circulated among the general population. Whether the information be details of national defense, corporate trade secrets, or your J.C. Penney charge card number, your secrets should remain just that: yours.

In the next few weeks, The Practical Mac will be exploring Internet and network security from a legal as well as a technical viewpoint. In the meantime, you should wrap your PowerBook in aluminum foil; it will prevent that pesky Windows program from spying on you.

I continue to receive comments on the recent on the Building a Web Presence on a Shoestring series. I want to share one representative email, this one from reader Alan Roberts:

Thanks for the great articles "Building a Web Presence on a Shoestring." The first one finally conquered my reluctance to use the newer Web creation programs. I have observed and tried many of them, but I never have liked how much they rely on tables for layout and insert other browser-specific HTML tags and other unnecessary things into the final HTML, so I've done it by hand for years, with 1997-level HTML. Wonderfully backward compatible pages though.

Since Claris Home Page generates HTML in the style I like to work with, I bought a copy on eBay that includes ClarisWorks 4.0 and at least one other Claris program, all for $14.00! Now I can get to work on my site. I am happy now.

I replied to Alan that he got an even better deal on eBay than I did. I paid almost $20 for my copy of Claris Home Page alone! Those of you who wrote to say that you are working on your first Web page, please keep me updated. I would like to spotlight a few in a future column. LEM

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Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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