Spyware is software that's installed without your informed consent. Spyware
communicates personal, confidential information about you to an attacker. The
information might be reports on your Web-surfing habits, or the software might be
looking for even more sinister information, such as sniffing out your credit card numbers
and reporting those numbers.
That is about as good a summary as there is.
Of course while you read that definition and it sunk in, you probably started
thinking “Hey wait a minute, how can that be, people can’t just drop little
software bombs on my machine!”
Actually they can and they do all the time. A colleague’s computer was running
slowly, in spite of good hardware, a fast processor and a T1 connection. We
asked if she had run anti-spyware software and we got a quizzical look.
We loaded a couple of scanner programs and found more than 1,300 infections!
Most of these are far more irritating than they are dangerous, but they should all
be dealt with, and we’ll tell you how.
AdWare Can Be – But Often Isn’t – “Friendly” Spyware
Adware is the less-malicious cousin of spyware. Often “adware” is designed to
simply pay attention to your browsing habits at certain sites or kinds of sites and
tell a server someplace what kinds of ads and other information to include on the
pages shown to you.
In this sense – the most generous view – it is a form of personalized marketing,
and because these things started as ad-serving assistants they are called
“adware” even now, when many of them track your behavior, which is one
problem, and slow your web connection to a crawl, which for many of us is the
real main problem.
If you order from a clothing company a few times a year, you may well not mind
if there is a cookie from that company that makes sure you see the sale items
you’re likely to be most interested in – but if that cookie is slowing down your
ability to work, you may well want to get rid of it anyway.
© Copyright 2006 by Michael Rasmussen and Jason Tarasi - All Rights Reserved.