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Spyware then and now

by Shanmuga| Tweet This | Google +1 | Facebook | Stumble It | Reddit | Digg | del.icio.us

Google brought back its oldest available index from the year 2001 on the occasion of its 10th birthday. It brought back certain nostalgic memories…I was into my second PC, a Compaq. That was the year I first got the internet connection at home through a 56kbps dial-up connection and that was the year I truly found the meaning of googling…

google search 2001 470x231 Spyware then and now

Now stopping short on nostalgia and coming to the point of this blog, Why is this cool? According to Google 2001 search FAQ

The World Wide Web and the world have both changed a lot since 2001. Searching Google’s 2001 index illustrates both points in what we think is a pretty entertaining way. If you searched on "Michael Phelps" in 2001 for instance, you were probably looking for the scientist, not the swimmer, "ipod" didn’t refer to a music player, and "youtube" didn’t refer to much of anything.

I was curious as to how the circa 2000-2001 index would react to a few keywords related to spyware and also how was malware/anti-malware universe evolving then?

Some of the keywords and their results are really informative.

  • A search for spyware OR “spyware removal” produced about 26000 results in 2001 and about 134 million today.
  • A search for malware OR “malware removal” produced about 43000 results in 2001 compared to over 35 million today.
  • A search for antivirus produced no free antivirus software in the top ten results in 2001, but produces 6 of the top ten results in 2008! Should it mean something?
  • Cydoor, Aureate/Radiate, Conducent/TimeSync, CometCursor, Web3000, Gator, Flyswat and WebHancer were some of the deadliest spyware/adware known then.
  • Opt-out, Ad-Aware, ZoneAlarm, Proxomitron and Hosts File Managers like Hostess and eDexter were the most preferred software for protecting against Spyware and Adware. SpyBot Search & Destroy barely came into existence.
  • AOL/Netscape download manager was sued in a class action for spying.
  • A search for antispyware produced about 60 results then compared to more than 14 million now.
  • The term rogue anti-spyware does not exist then.
  • Mattel was caught spying on the children who use their software.
  • Phish/Phishing in 2001 referred to “a Way to Rock”…a rock band called Phish.
  • The top result for Spam then and now is for the luncheon meat.
  • The “Nigerian Spam” was there in 2001 and people still fall for it in 2008.
  • The easiest way to get rid of “Spyware”was by using “Optout” software from Steve Gibson. An alternative was a fairly new program called “Ad-Aware”.
  • Ad-Aware was previously called Anti Aureate.
  • Security geeks mostly visited alt.privacy.spyware, news://news.grc.com/grc.spyware and alt.comp.freeware for the latest on Spyware/Adware.
  • Free software was the main or the only carrier for spyware then.
  • A definition of Spyware back then:

    What is spyware?

    Also known as “adware,” this hidden software program transmits user information via the Internet to advertisers in exchange for free downloaded software.
    By Robert Vamosi, ZDNet Reviews & Solutions
    June 28, 2001

  • Definition of Spyware now from Wikipedia

    Spyware is computer software that is installed surreptitiously on a personal computer to intercept or take partial control over the user’s interaction with the computer, without the user’s informed consent.

  • Looking for a Cookie mostly meant Cookie recipes or fortune cookies in 2001 and now it mostly means HTTP cookies, Web cookies or tracking cookies.
  • The top result for Internet Browser in 2001 was predictably Internet Explorer and the first Non-IE result is for NeoPlanet.

    The top 4 results for Internet Browser today is surprisingly Firefox and Opera followed by Maxthon in 6th place, while Internet Explorer languishes in 7th place! Mind you IE still has about 76% of the market followed by Firefox at 18%, Safari at 4% and Opera at less than 1%.

Browsing through the results from both 2001 and 2008 indexes of Google gives a glimpse of the evolution of Spyware/Malware. In the past the spyware authors looked to hit the headlines or just being a nuisance, now they are looking to create full fledged products for financial gain.

The Google 2001 Search is only available for one month.

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