There's nothing to stop you from using a Briefcase to synchronize files remotely. For example, if you are using a VPN to connect to your home network, as I explain in Part V, you might want to synch the files in your Briefcase from time to time with the versions at home.
Pop-ups are browser windows that open while you are surfing the Internet, usually without your consent, usually advertising something. They are a nuisance. In contrast, spywareprograms placed on your computer without your informed consent that monitor your activitiescan do actual harm (in addition to delivering information about your habits to third parties).
The general category of these kinds of software has been aptly called malwarebecause they range from the merely obnoxious to the downright malicious. Some species of malware cut across the categories: One nasty piece of work takes over the search features of Internet Explorer, reports on your activities, and opens pop-up ads targeted at you based on your searches and the reports.
By the way, it's fine if you decide to install this kind of software by choice, but absolutely not in my book if you haven't agreed to it, or if the agreement is in some fine print that you've never read. An awful lot of this annoying software gets installed as a hidden "bonus" with some shareware and freeware programs.
As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, if you are using a browser that is an alternative to Internet Explorersuch as the Mozilla project's Foxfireit might already have effective pop-up and spyware blocking. Any add-ons to Internet Explorer, such as the Google Toolbar, provide pop-up blocking (and even tell you how many it has blocked). In the due fullness of time, pop-up and spyware blockers will be incorporated into antivirus software and even into operating systems.
Protection is good, but it does involve trade-offs. Software that constantly monitors for spyware can slow your computer down, and depending on the your mobile connection speed, you might decide not to run this kind of software. Even so, don't forget the need for protection. You can run a program that scans your system for spyware every so often to make sure that you are "clean"without negatively impacting ongoing performance.
There's really no downside to blocking pop-ups. This may be handled for you by your browser or browser add-on that blocks these obnoxious advertisements. If not, you can run dedicated blocking software on your mobile computer.
It's true that some sites and applications use pop-up windows for functional reasons, such as allowing a user to log in or to start a remote session. If you need access to a feature such as this, you can always manually unblock a specific site. (All the pop-up blockers have both manual overrides and mechanisms for unblocking specific Web addresses.)
If you do a search on Google for pop-up and spyware blockers, you'll find many offerings. Many effective products perform these services, so you have quite a number to choose from.
The SP2 (Service Pack 2) release of Windows XP has improved security features, including its own pop-up blocker. In addition, the personal firewall program that ships with Windows XP now defaults to "on" (rather than "off" as it did prior to SP2).
A word of warning here is to be careful about any pop-up and spyware blockers offered as part of spam emails. These "products" might install spyware themselves and should not be trusted. (In any case, the best way to eliminate spam is to never "click through" it; if no one ever bought anything because of spam, there would be no spam email.)
Spy Sweeper, available as a free download from http://www.webroot.com is a program that will reliably detect and eliminate any spyware installed on your system. Figure 4.9 shows the results of a Spy Sweeper system scan.
Figure 4.9. Spy Sweeper will scan your system for spyware and remove any malware it finds.
A good commercial anti-spyware program is also available from McAfee, http://www.mcafee.com. Although this program does have an initial cost (about $40), this is a reliable program (which also foils adware and obnoxious pop-ups when run in auto-protect mode) from a mainstream vendor.
Spy Sweeper can be run to occasionally scan your system, or it can be used as an active shield against malware. If it is actively scanning, it will slow your system down. Note also that the initial Spy Sweeper program is free, but to keep it current you will need to purchase a subscription.