Posts Tagged ‘free spyware programs’
Spyware has been defined as “any software that covertly gathers user information through the user’s Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes.” These programs are sometimes also referred to as “data miners.”
Spyware can be installed in numerous ways. However, these applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. Typically, a unique tracking number is assigned to each installation of the spyware. Once installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the internet and transmits that information, via a backdoor, to the company responsible for creating the spyware. This monitoring allows the company to maintain a database of the activities of the users whose computers are infected by their spyware.
Spyware is one of the most typical Internet intruders that can imbed itself in your hard drive. In a recent survey by Consumer Reports, it was found that US consumers lost $7 billion over the last two years to viruses, spyware, and phishing schemes. Out of a random sample of 2,000 US homes with internet access, the survey suggests that consumers face a 25% chance of being victimized. Thirty-four percent of respondents’ computers had succumbed to spyware in the past six months alone.
Because of these sneaky attacks, spyware has been called a “crafty and insidious” threat that you need good tools to combat. Some antispyware programs can stop most attacks, but none stop every single one. In fact, you should always use more than one antispyware program to combat your spyware problems as no one program can catch all threats.
Although freely compared to antivirus programs, software to remove spyware is definitely statistically less effective. Because antispyware applications have not been able to keep up with the demand that spyware places on them, the current trend is to deem those that stop only about a third of the threats, as acceptable. The ones that capture three out of four are praised as excellent. But as time goes on, those that have chosen to fight back against spyware are getting more keen to what they are up against; the expectation for what spyware can and will catch has skyrocketed.
There is a funny thing about this dilemma though; in an odd twist of fate, all this spyware is turning out to be big business for computer manufacturers. According to the Consumers Report study, virus infections drove about 1.8 million households to replace their computers over the past two years. And over the past six months, spyware infestations prompted about 850,000 households to replace their computers.
So how does the average computer user stop spyware? Beyond the obvious tips like activating firewalls, shutting computers down when not in use, and exercising caution when downloading software or using public computers, invest is a good spyware detector and removal program. It will be more than worth the cost when it keeps you running problem-free.
Spyware programs come in many shapes and sizes. Some are very obvious, like those that flood your computer screen with unwanted advertisements. Other less flamboyant types of spyware programs lurk in your system, secretly gathering your personal information.
Depending on who you talk to, spyware programs can also be called adware (advertisement+software) and malware (malicious+software). No matter what you call them, they are bad news.
In general, spyware is defined as a program that has been downloaded to your computer without consent. It is virtual hijacking. The spyware programs materialize in various ways. While some are concerned with surveillance, others take control of your computer.
Some spyware tracks your every online move. This is usually done for the purpose of gaining information about the types of sites you visit. This information can be collected and then sold to advertisers. The advertisers use the spyware programs to figure out how to market to whom. So if you’ve ever been surfing the web for a cruise vacation and then found yourself being bombarded with vacation package popups, it’s likely you have spyware or adware.
Another way spyware programs work is by literally taking control of your computer. Not only does it become saturated with popups, it also may be nearly unusable because of error messages or other out of the ordinary occurrences. This type of breakdown in system performance makes it easy for the user to identify that spyware is causing the problem.
The worst kind of spyware programs are called keyloggers. These spyware programs not only secretly record your every keystroke, they also send that information back to the perpetrating hacker. This means that everything from your email, to bank passwords, to credit card numbers are gathered by the keylogger. To make matters worse, you might have no idea of the presence of the keylogger until it is too late.
Preventing and Combating Spyware Programs
One way to avoid spyware programs is by using a Macintosh or a PC with a non-Windows operating system. Spyware programs are mostly written for PCs with Windows since those are the most prevalent among computer owners. However, if Macs or PC operating systems like Linux become more popular it is virtually guaranteed that spyware will become a major problem for these operating systems. Because Windows has the largest market share spyware is typically targetted for the Windows platform.
Some people recommend using Firefox as an alternative web browser. But, this won’t stop all spyware. Personally I use Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages.
Since hackers will probably adapt and eventually create spyware programs to work with other operating systems and web browsers, it’s a good idea to develop vigilant web surfing habits right away. These habits include the following:
* Be knowledgeable about the online sites you visit. If a site says you must download something to view the page, you are better off missing out on the website rather than putting your computer at risk for infection.
* Ignore pop-ups. Never follow a link or click “okay.” Just close the pop up and move on.
* Don’t open spam. Spammers are notorious for including spyware programs in their emails.
* Be careful when downloading. This especially includes unnecessary downloads like new toolbars and games.
* Run a regular scan for spyware. You protect your house and car from theft with a lock, why wouldn’t you protect your computer?
For the time being, however, spyware, adware, and malware is here to stay. In fact, most people who own a computer have encountered some sort of spyware.
Take the aforementioned steps in order to both eliminate current spyware programs and prevent future ones from infecting your system. After all, the many important pieces of information that are transferred via your computer and the Internet are worth protecting.