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Helping to distinguish between truly friendly cookies and other “spyware” and
the bad stuff is something we’ll cover shortly.
First let’s take a look at viruses, then the more vexing and current problem of
spyware and its many guises.
Viruses
You’re probably familiar with viruses, as they have been around the longest and
most people are familiar with “virus software,” more accurately termed virus
detection and removal software.
A computer virus is normally an executable program that arrives on your
computer hidden within something else, like an email, or an email attachment.
The typical computer virus is designed, very simply, to cause you, your
computer, and other computers, problems.
You may wonder why anyone would bother to develop software specifically to
cause problems, and the motives are as complex as the motives for any bad
behavior. Some viruses have been developed by programmers to see what could
accomplish, in a mischievous way.
Some have been developed to hurt certain companies or industries by, for
example, aggrieved ex employees or nefarious competitors. Some have been
developed for political or other purposes – including, debatably, actual
terrorism, since “denial of service” and other virus-based online attacks can
make communications stop for a while.
We’re more concerned with what they do and how to stop them than why
people bother to invent and disseminate them in the first place.
What Viruses Do
What viruses do varies but it is always bad, if sometimes amusing.
Some will try to destroy your computer (on the software level, although some
will actually “physically” harm your hard drive disks). Some will simply
replicate themselves, for example, sending copies of themselves to everyone in
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