What is Poker "Malware"? What is Poker "Spyware"?

Malware is the name given to any kind of malicious program which might compromise your privacy or security on-line. Spyware is one type of Malware, which generally installs itself without your permission when you download a file or click on a link. A spyware program monitors which sites you visit, then targets advertising based on these sites. The more serious type of malware / spyware is a "trojan", which is a program that installs itself on your computer and can actually hijack your web browser and redirect you to particular sites. Such programs can also add sites to your lists of "favorite sites", alter your home page to a spam/scam site, and plague you with "pop-up" screens advertising gambling, drugs, pornography etc... The programs are often difficult to remove, and will try and reinstall themselves time and again.

How and why do gambling site downloads use malware?

More subtle forms of malware don't appear to do anything to your computer, but can perform operations that you may not be aware of, such as blocking your access to other gambling sites. This was the type of Malware recently embedded in the casino download of Gambling Federation software. Once you had downloaded Gambling Federation's casino software, a small program within it prevented you from playing on other operator's sites. There was nothing in the download details that informed players of this fact, it was just incorporated into the software download. Malware becomes more and more sophisticated and more and more subtle, and it is a constant challenge for players to try and work out whether their computers are being compromised. One way around this is to only play "no download" software, but even this can be compromised by unscrupulous operators. The best security is to only play at a trusted site. The use of Malware is prohibited by pretty much every regulator on the web - Gambling Federation had their membership from the iGGBA and the IGC revoked once it admitted using Malware.

How can I protect myself against Malware?

Firstly, check your system is up to date. This means downloading any security patches for your operating system (e.g. Windows Service Pack 2 for XP), your browser (e.g. Internet Explorer) and your email client (e.g. Outlook Express) as well as any other "critical updates" for software you currently run (e.g. Windows Media). Install a firewall. Firewalls help protect your computer against programs that try and gain access to your computer. Windows XP comes with a free firewall, but you can obtain a more robust - and free! - firewall from www.zonelabs.com. Download and install "ZoneAlarm" (or another firewall if you have had one recommended to you), and make sure it is always up to date. You should also have an up-to-date anti-virus program, which has a "real-time" anti-virus checking facility. AVG offer a free anti-virus program which will do the job for most users. The most popular packages (which you'll have to pay for) are from Norton and McAfee, and are available from your local PC store or from Amazon. Download a "pop-up blocker" if your computer doesn't already have one (XP Service Pack 2 includes one as standard). There are numerous free programs available that will block any unsolicited javascript "pop-up" windows. Download a spyware blocker / detector / cleaner, keep them up to date, and run them regularly. Note! Many gambling sites use Microgaming software to power their casino. If you run some anti-malware programs, they will detect a Microgaming "cookie" as malware, and suggest you delete it. This cookie just remembers your user name for when you log in to the casino. You are completely free to delete this cookie - but make sure you have a note of your user name first! If you delete the cookie you will have to enter your user name each and every time you enter the poker room / casino. As always, the best way to avoid to getting into trouble is just not to play at sites that use spyware and malware - stick to a trusted site.

What is phishing?

"Phishing" is sending out bogus emails or establishing bogus web-sites that try and lure you into thinking the email or site is genuine, in order to get you to enter bank account details. Most "phishing" scams are nothing to do with gambling sites, but recent reports have suggested the phishers are moving in this direction, and there have been reports of bogus sites that try and look like one of the major respectable gambling sites. For more details on phishing scams and how to avoid them, visit www.antiphishing.org.

What is key-logging?

"Key logging" is done by criminal gangs who install a piece of malware on your computer which then records your keystrokes in a file which can later be read by a remote computer. This effectively means everything you type - including passwords and account details - can be discovered by the key-logger. The best defense against malware of this kind is a firewall, an up-to-date anti-virus program, and an up-to-date anti-malware program.

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