A DATA SOURCE OBJECT EXPLOIT, also known as a DSO EXPLOIT, is made possible through a security gap common among the Internet Explorer (IE) family of browsers. The tactic involves the storing of a URL address in the Windows registry by a site in a user’s browser history (collection of sites visited). Information is sent from the user’s computer back to advertising sites where the data is further processed.
A Data Source Object Exploit is not a virus in the traditional sense, as it isn’t self-replicating nor does it trick a user into taking consequential actions. But the fact that it’s used to track a user’s online behavior and activities makes it similar to oft-dreaded spyware programs. A DSO exploit is brought to light by spyware detection and removal utilities like the famed Spybot Search and Destroy application, Anti-Spy for Android operating systems, and others. By taking advantage of holes in the Internet Explorer browser, “untrusted” software makes its way to your computer—giving way to unauthorized access.
Under the Hood of a DSO Exploit
Once a DSO exploit is implemented, it is very difficult to detect. Practitioners suggest running two (2) or three (3) anti-spyware programs at a time to increase your chances of doing so. And even if you’re successful in eradicating them, there is still a high probability they will return. The threat of a Data Source Object Exploit was so potent at one time that Microsoft took steps to combat it in their Windows Update feature. Regularly applying these distributed updates to your operating system decreases your chances of encountering a DSO exploit.
Other Tips for Combating a DSO Exploit
There are also other ways to combat a Data Source Object Exploit. Each involves disconnecting your computer or device from the Internet, then rebooting it (or simply logging into SafeMode without Networking). Then, your choice of two (2) or three (3) anti-spyware programs should be run once the operating system starts back up. The purpose of this is to catch as many questionable programs as possible; there will undoubtedly be some overlapping, but each program will also detect different items. Upon quarantining the potentially-unwanted programs and ensuring the exploit has been removed, a final reboot patches your system and makes it safe to connect to the Internet again.
As previously mentioned, even after removing a DSO exploit there is still a good chance it will reappear. Experts suggests that no computer or device is ever fully free of spyware or its neighboring programs (see Ad Fraud and Pre-Installed Malware). Given that a Data Source Object Exploit isn’t necessarily malicious, it could be concluded that such alerts be ignored—opting instead to keep your system fully patched and protected by firewall and anti-virus (AV) software.