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Spyware You Might Welcome

In the right hands, surveillance software has its place.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 02/09/2006

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How do you feel about spying? Is it a good idea or a bad idea?

I guess that depends who is doing the spying and who they are spying on. It is a good guess that most Americans think it is okay for their government to spy on foreign enemies and terrorists. Apparently, some Americans think it is okay for the government to secretly spy on their fellow citizens under certain circumstances, provided that their government never spies on them.

What does all of this have to do with technology for advisors? Well, all of the recent news about governmental spying got me thinking about spyware, specifically key loggers. According to Webopedia.com:

A key logger is a type of surveillance software (considered to be either software or spyware) that has the capability to record every keystroke you make to a log file (usually encrypted). A key logger recorder can record instant messages, e-mail, and any information you type at any time using your keyboard. The log file created by the key logger can then be sent to a specified receiver. Some key logger programs will also record any e-mail addresses you use and Web site URLs you visit.

Key loggers are often referred to as spyware or malware. This is because a hacker or criminal can sometimes cause you to unsuspectingly download a key logging program onto your computer. A criminal might also install a key logger on a public computer. The key logging program would record every keystroke on the computer in question, and relay that information to the hacker, who could then scan the log for passwords and other personal information.

Obviously, most people do not think using key loggers for this sort of criminal activity is a good idea. To combat this sort of thing, they purchase anti-spyware software to combat key loggers and other "stealth" programs.

As is the case with spying, however, things are not always black and white. There are times when most readers would consider the use of a key logger justified, or even desirable. Let me give you a few examples.

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