As part of an ongoing series, called One-on-One, over at COU, I sat down with BillPStudios, as he goes by in our very own forums, and his own for long chat and Q&A.
Hope you enjoy it.
On a recent trip back to New York, for a high school reunion, and to visit some family and friends, I had the pleasant opportunity to sit down and chat wilth Bill Pytlovany, the man behind Scotty the Watchdog, of WinPatrol fame.
We spent a couple of hours chatting away as we spoke about WinPatrol, his time at AOL and some other things we had in common, namely, spyware, or, mysteryware as Bill likes to call it.
Truth be told, I could have spent my entire time in upstate NY with Bill, an extremly friendly, and interesting man.
I met his lovely wife, and one of his grandkids too.
Bill resides in a lovely little town that goes by the name of Scotia.
Following is a series of questions I posed to Bill, and he was more than happy to answer and discuss them with me.
How and when did you decide to get involved in the world of ad\spy\mal\mystery\grey-wares(insert your own word already) detections?
My initial entry into this segment of the industry was security related. The term Spyware was special clothing worn by Man from U.N.CL.E. WinPatrol was initially created in response to a program created for “script kiddies” to steal other people’s AOL passwords. A “Script Kiddie” is young hacker wannabe with no real life, no real technical knowledge but gets online to trade warez and tools created by others.
The first version of WinPatrol released in 1997 was free and able to catch anything that was added to your traditional startup locations. The free version was something I called Birthdayware. Every year on my birthday a message would pop up inviting users to send a birthday Email to me if they liked WinPatrol.
Through the years BillP Studios has been in high demand by companies such as Gateway, America Online, Microsoft, Epson and Capital Cities ABC(Now Disney). We specialized in unique utilities and programs that focused on convergent technologies between TV’s, PC’s and the Internet. WinPatrol was just something I did on the side for online friends and family. Thanks to the encouragement of our users and support from our PLUS members I’m now devoting full time to fighting spyware.
What is your experience with windows\MS products, and how do they help with the development of WinPatrol?
I started to program Windows immediately after Windows 3.0 was released and I had a hunch it might catch on. At the time the challenge was always to get your program to provide some kind of functionality that Windows wasn’t originally designed to do. Everyone shared their tricks freely and published their source code. I spent many years learning about the internal workings of the Windows OS. The key to WinPatrol’s advantage is the understanding how other programs communicate with Windows and detecting what programs aren’t playing by the rules. Any program can monitor the registry but the secret to WinPatrol’s efficiency is evaluating what changes really matter.
How long did it take to develop WinPatrol and what were your primary goals with it?
WinPatrol has been a labor of love for the last eight years although it has only been a full time project for the last year. Aside from safety my primary goal has always been education. I wanted a small, single program that allowed me to know what was running on my computer and why. While new versions of Windows encouraged the use of long descriptive file name, Microsoft continued to use filenames like cftmon.exe, lsass.exe or Dumprep.exe. WinPatrol sheds a little light on the mystery of what your computer is doing.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing conventional 'scanners' and how do you think WinPatrol differs? And what more does it offer, especially in the 'Plus' version?
Scanners don’t really provide complete protection but they’re useful in helping to cleanup a system. Scanners are typically slow and require previous knowledge of a malicious program. Scanners use definition or reference files that need to be updated daily if not more often. WinPatrol offers protection from any new threats. It’s not necessary to update the WinPatrol software regularly. Instead, we can update the information in our PLUS database without making changes on anyone’s computer.
What plans are in the future for Scotty\WinPatrol?
While WinPatrol is popular and has a large following he still requires users to stop and read what the screen says. I’d like to take the innovation of WinPatrol together with what we’ve learned and create solutions for any computer user regardless of their interest in how their computer works.
Scotty has a new feline friend capable of catching sneaky little varmints that might want to live in your computer. I hope to announce Scotty’s new friend by the end of the year.
Where do you see the next 'big trend' in malware writers turning their, um 'talents' to, its been said RSS is the next step.
I hate to give anyone any ideas but I think malware writers will continue to stay busy for many years to come. I’m afraid we’re going to start seeing unwanted programming sneak into all kinds of non-PC devices. Cell phones, MP3 Players, cable boxes and DVR’s are all ripe for abuse as they start connecting to a global network.
How did a dog come to be your icon , and how did Scotty gets his\her name, and how long have you been a dog fancier?
For most of my life I’ve lived in a quaint little village in upstate NY called Scotia. It has a long Scottish and Dutch heritage. Scotty was created as a tribute to my hometown of Scotia. Most people are surprised to find out I’ve never actually owned a Scottish terrier. At the current time I don’t actually have a dog but if I did, it would probably be a nice big collie.
Finally, in the little spare time you have, what do you enjoy doing most?
To date I have four of the most wonderful grand kids anyone could ask for. I’ve done my share of programming with a small child on my lap and my spare time is usually spent coloring, playing with Thomas the Tank Engine, swimming in the pool, riding bikes and reading bedtime stories.
Well, that was my time with Bill, at least a small part. Below are a couple of pix I snapped. My bad, I did not get a pic of Bill and I. But you can be sure the next time I'm in NY, I'll be making time to visit again, if he deems me worthy of his precious time.
Bill @ his desk: