As technology advances and more people come to rely on the
information, leisure, and business it seems as if keeping your
computer free of advertising is a daunting task. Not technically fitting into either the
spam category we have spyware and adware, which are growing concerns
for Internet users. At times these
programs may invade your privacy,
contain malicious code, and at the
very least they can be a nuisance when using a computer connected to the
Adware is considered a legitmate
alternative offered to consumers who do not wish to pay for software. Programs,
games or utilities can be designed and distributed as
freeware blocks features and functions of the software until you pay to register
it. Today we have a growing number of software developers who offer their goods
as "sponsored" freeware until you pay to register. Generally most or all features of the
freeware are enabled but you will be viewing sponsored advertisements while
the software is being used. The advertisements usually run in a
small section of the software interface or as a
pop-up ad box on your
When you stop running the software, the ads should disappear. This allows consumers to try the software
before they buy and you always have the option of disabling the ads by
purchasing a registration key.
In many cases, adware is a legitimate revenue
source for companies who offer their software free to users. A perfect example
of this would be the popular e-mail program, Eudora. You can choose to purchase
Eudora or run the software in sponsored mode. In sponsored mode Eudora
will display an ad window in the program and up to three sponsored toolbar
links. Eudora adware is not malicious; it reportedly doesn't track your habits or provide
information about you to a third party. This type of adware is simply serving up random paid ads within the
program. When you quit the program the ads will stop running on your system.
Unfortunately, some freeware applications which
contain adware do track your surfing
habits in order to serve ads related to you. When the adware becomes intrusive
then we move it in the spyware category and it then becomes something you should
avoid for privacy and security reasons. Due to its invasive nature, spyware has really given adware a bad name as many
people do not
know the differences between the two, or use the the terms interchangeably.
considered a malicious program and is similar to a
Trojan Horse in that users
unwittingly install the product when they install something else. A common way
to become a victim of spyware is to download certain
peer-to-peer file swapping
products that are available today.
like adware but is usually a separate program that is installed unknowingly when
you install another freeware type program or application. Once installed, the
spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and transmits that information in
the background to someone else. Spyware can also gather information about
addresses and even passwords and credit card numbers.
Because spyware exists as independent
programs, they have the capability to monitor
files on the hard
drive, snoop other applications, such as
chat programs or word
processors, install other spyware programs, read
cookies, change the
home page on the
while consistently relaying this information back to the spyware author who will
either use it for advertising and marketing purposes or sell the information to
Licensing agreements that accompany software
sometimes warn the user that a spyware program will be installed along with the
requested software, but the licensing agreements are not always be read
completely by users because the notice of a spyware installation is often couched in
obtuse, hard-to-read legal disclaimers.
While one may not realize they have installed spyware, there are
some signs that it exists on your computer. If you notice any changes to your
browser that you did not make such as extra
toolbars or different
as well as changes to your
security settings and favorites list, you could have spyware running on your
system. Other signs of a spyware infection include pop-up ads which aren't
related to a Web site you're viewing; usually spyware advertisements are adult
content in nature and are not displayed in the same fashion as legitimate ads you would
normally see on your favorite Web sites. You may also see advertisements when
you're not browsing the Web. Clicking
hyperlinks which do not work (or take
you somewhere you didn't expect), a sluggish system, or your system taking
longer to load the
Windows desktop are all signs that your computer may be
infected with spyware.
With the onset of spyware comes a plethora of anti-spyware
software packages to rid your system of these unwanted and malicious programs.
Anti-spyware software works by identifying any spyware installed on your
and removing it. Since spyware is installed like any other application on your
system it will
leave traces of itself in the system
registry and in other places on your computer. Anti-spyware software will look for
evidence of these files and delete them if found.
It is important to remember that not all
companies who claim their software contains adware are really offering adware.
There is always a chance that adware is spyware in disguise so to speak, and that programs
with embedded spyware may not state its existence at all. Always stay on the
side of caution and be sure to research privacy policies and licensing
agreements that come with freeware. You should also become familiar with Internet lists of
companies reported to be using spyware. Much like a
anti-spyware software is crucial to maintain optimal protection and security on
your computer and network.
Spyware Guide offers links to anti-spyware software but also provides lists of
companies distributing spyware, and lists of software and applications known to
at Home: Fight Spyware
The Microsoft Security center provides detailed information on spyware and tips
and information on how to find and remove spyware from your system.
Anti-Spyware Top Ten
Overviews and ratings of some of the most popular anti-spyware software.
Spybot - Search & Destroy can detect and remove spyware of different kinds from
your computer. Spyware is a relatively new kind of threat that common anti-virus
applications do not yet cover.
Ad-Aware is designed to provide advanced protection from known Data-mining,
aggressive advertising, Parasites, Scumware, selected traditional Trojans,
Dialers, Malware, Browser hijackers, and tracking components.
Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Last updated: November 11, 2004