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This Privacy Stuff is Really Bugging Me!
Protect Your Digital Privacy by Mike Banks Valentine

There is a nasty little privacy parasite loose on
your computer. You get it by visiting web sites with
"bugs" on them. Typically served by ad tracking,
affiliate tracking and even email tracking companies
to measure the effectiveness of their ads, track their
visitors and find out when you open their email. Web
are tiny, invisible 1 pixel by 1 pixel graphic
files that notify a third party web site when a page,
an ad or an email is viewed.

Now if you've joined an affiliate program through
any of the major affiliate tracking companies, you
have probably even put these bugs on your own pages
without knowing what you've done. They come in the
HTML code you are given to paste into your page by
Commission Junction or LinkShare or BeFree networks
and LinkExchange to track your visitors so you can be
paid your affiliate commissions.

You'll see on the link code something like this <img
border="0" width="1" height="1" NOSAVE >

This is actually the WebSite101 code for our affiliate
link to and is required by their
affiliate program. This is a "good" use of web bugs to
track commission payments to affiliates. It allows the
host to track exactly what web page was visited by the
surfer and when so that affiliate links can be tracked
from their source.

The "bad" bugs are those used by ad servers to track
which advertisements are viewed by surfers and combine
it with other information stored about that surfer at
other web sites. There are bugs included in HTML email
-- those messages that include graphics, fonts and page
color in the messages -- to see when the email was opened
and can even tell where on your hard drive that email
is stored, when it was viewed, how long it was open
and if the links are clicked on.

"Bad" bugs are used by nefarious sites to collect
information from your hard drive and pass it back to
their server without your knowledge. This is done in
combination with cookies to send information about your
surfing habits to third parties, also without your
knowledge. For more about cookies visit:

Some of these nasty little critters can even be used
from web pages or within your email to install
"executable bugs," which can install a file onto your
hard drive to collect information whenever you are online.
For example, one such bug can scan a hard drive to send
information on every document that contains the word

More on Web Bugs . . .

Type 1

In this case, a third party gathers information about an individual based on his activities on the Web. While he surfs the site, an unseen information gatherer is creating a personal profile by examining the pages he visits, how long he stays, his geographic location -- and even his buying patterns and credit card information. Many commonly used Web sites, such as DoubleClick, use this type of bug to profile users.

Type 2

This application is downloaded on a computer unknowingly, like a Trojan horse, it then resides on a user's computer -- even the hard drive.

"A Type Two can monitor anything. For example, if you do your own taxes with financial software, it can monitor that." This type of bug often is downloaded invisibly because it has attached itself to a desired application such as an MP3 file.

Type 3

A script-based Type Three bug enters a computer even when the user doesn't download anything at all. Wang and his colleagues used a script-based bug, for instance, during a presentation to the Congressional Privacy Caucus in Washington, D.C.

The bug, specially written for the presentation, entered a committee member's personal computer and stole a copy of his private address book and calendar. While an audience watched, the bug then transferred all of the stolen addresses to a colleague's computer.

Type 4

This bug enters a computer through a Web-based application such as instant messaging or in a bulletin board. For instance, Wang said, some devious Web users recently created a Type 4 bug that infiltrated the popular Internet auction site, eBay.

The bug gathered information about how much money auction participants were willing to spend for items that were up for sale on the site -- and then the bug's authors used that data to manipulate the auctions.

Type 5

This Web bug functions like an e-mail version of a wiretap. For instance, if a lawyer were to receive a message from an adversary in a lawsuit and then forward that message along with her own comments to several colleagues -- who then commented back and forth, too -- the original sender of the message could actually track the whole e-mail conversation as it progressed.

A company called Intelytics offers a suite of privacy protection products that specifically track, warn and prevent damage by these insidious little creatures.

There is also a new free software available
for Windows users called

<a href="">Bugnosis</a>

which is provided as freeware by the

<a href="">
Protect Your Digital Privacy Privacy Foundation</a>.

The software is designed as a browser plug-in to notify
you when a page you visit is a security risk, or simply
if the page contains web bugs. They are working on a
version that will notify you of bugs in your email.

Call the exterminator honey, we've got bugs in the PC!

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Ezine emphasizing small business online
e-tutorial online at:
By week's end you're ready expand your business to the web!

Index to Privacy Resources at WebSite101


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