When I was a child, computers were expensive and inaccessible for my family. Only my aunt, who had a store, had a computer to do graphical work. They were a sight to behold and I was given the chance to work with some of them at school. So you can imagine my happiness when I got my first computer.
With it, came my fear of breaking it. Every little thing that was out of place would scare the shit out of me, like when I would remove a floppy disk while it was reading and the computer would BSOD.
So, for survival, I would investigate a lot about malware and viruses, read reports of how they work and learn all of the associated lingo. I remember reading and being afraid of mydoom, also known by the sexy name of W32.MyDoom@mm. The computer magazines in Portugal had articles pages long explaining the differences between trojan horses, worms, spyware and adware. I knew all of the terms by heart and I would explain them to my family and install the best antivirus I could.
Today, computers are much more secure. So much so that I dont even think about which antimalware I should install. I’m not scared to use online banking. SSL is everywhere, thanks to the disruption of the Certificate Authority mafia by the good people of this earth1.
But, did we really eradicate viruses? Are they really less common now? It certainly looks like, long gone are the days of connecting a Windows XP machine to the Internet and being bombarded with viruses that seem to came from space. But, malware is diverse, and I would like to focus on Spyware and Adware. If we look at the popularity of the terms, it might seem like they became less of a problem; one could expect that when a word ceases to be used it’s because the subject has been deemed irrelevant.
Search Trends from Google2
While that could have been the case, unfortunatly it’s not. Just like the theory that mitochondria were bacteria absorbed into our cells and became part of us3, I would posit that the same happened with Spyware and Adware. They don’t exist as much anymore in “isolation”, because they became part of our computer cells. We didn’t defeat it, but rather it has become “socially” acceptable to have devices who spy and who shove ads randomly in our machines. We adapted to support it. That transformation was due to the market strength which took all the opportunities it could to legitimise all kinds of businesses that relied upon the abusive collection and processing of personal data of individuals, and that is why the words are dying.
It’s only natural that we would be complacent with their demise. After all, it’s not comfortable to state that the biggest operative system in the market is Spyware. But maybe we should restart the usage of these words as they were before.
I try my best to fight for my privacy with AdBlockers and trying to buy products that respect me as an user. But I admit my weakness, I cannot stop using them altogether or be more fierce about it. But I can certainly name things as they are, make them more overt instead. My childish dream of affordable computing and an ever evolving technological society was too innocent. But, alas, I am not political enough for loneliness.