Posts Tagged ‘spyware software’
It’s been said that nothing in life is free; this couldn’t be more true out on the Internet. Free software is known around the Internet by names such as “shareware” and “freeware,” but many of these free software programs are not worth your time to download. And more often than not, they are laced with some sort of malware that is out to infect your computer.
No computer user should have to bear the headaches that a free software program can bring to their machine. The spyware that usually comes with it can track your surfing habits, abuse your Internet connection by sending this data to a third party, slow down your computer by using bandwidth and running in the background, profile your shopping preferences, hijack your browser start page or pages, alter important system files… and it can do this without your knowledge or permission.
The security and privacy concerns with this kind of monitoring are obvious. On top of that, after doing an innocent search for a European vacation, you will find yourself bombarded with a barrage of vacation package pop-ups from travel sites and your inbox filled with spam emails advertising their latest and greatest bargain. Nothing can be more frustrating than wasting 15 minutes of time, just clicking the little red “x,” only to have more boxes pop-up.
This is how the programmers of free software make their money; they lure you in with a free trial or a free version of software you may find beneficial; after gathering your data and monitoring your surfing habits, they sell your information to third parties that will spend time and energy spamming you. If they hijack your browser, any search you do will turn up a list of sites that, as a result, will benefit them; Google ranking will not matter.
A good example of this type of free software is file-sharing programs. Who isn’t enticed by the thought of free music or software? The problem occurs after you download the software and malware is given access to your computer. Site Advisor, a site recently purchased by McAfee, had this to say in an article published by the Wall Street Journal, “Often, so-called ‘free’ items are anything but free….. Free screen saver and games sites are notorious for bundling spyware and adware with downloads… Free e-card sites often share users’ e-mail addresses with third parties and can lead to a never-ending influx of spam… Ringtone sites frequently lure consumers with misleading offers of free tones that ultimately lead to automatic enrollment in paid subscriptions.”
So, is free software really free? It all depends on how you view “free.” If you consider “free” in terms of whether or not you must pay for something, then the short answer would be yes. However, considering the time and energy it will take, not to mention the amount of hair you will pull out, when dealing with getting rid of your spyware, the answer is no.
Remember, any software worth having comes with a price tag and typically, it’s worth the price you will pay. Don’t download free software just to try and save a buck; in the end, it will likely cost you money you didn’t intend on spending just to get rid of it.
While the term “spyware software” is usually attributed to unwanted programs installed onto a computer, it can also be purposely downloaded. When one party wants to unknowingly spy on another party, they simply download or install the spyware software and start watching and recording.
Most spyware software companies market these products for two main purposes. The first is for parental spying. A suspicious parent who wants to see what their kids are really doing online can simply install the spyware software and see what types of websites their kids are going to. They can also keep tabs on the emails they are writing.
The other main use for this type of spyware software is in employment situations. Sometimes a company will install the software on some or all of the computers used by employees. This allows them to keep track of productivity. An employee who spends all day shopping online will likely be reprimanded or fired. Some companies even make their employees aware that the spyware software is on every computer in order to deter them from misusing the technology in the first place.
Whether the spyware software is used by parents or employers, it has a long list of capabilities that allow the installer total access by logging every keystroke. The spyware software logs all computer activities, including the following:
* Email: Every email address address and email that is typed into the computer is recorded.
* Websites: Every website that is visited is logged. This can include screenshots of whatever the user is looking at.
* Chatrooms: Like email, every keystroke and conversation is logged.
These spyware software programs include features that keep them from being detected by virus scanners. They allow whoever installed the program 24-hour live access to the computers in order to surveil when they see fit.
Much controversy surrounds these spyware software programs. Ethical issues dealing with personal privacy are stated in every debate. It has become an even greater with the explosion of hacker-created spyware software.
When a hacker makes spyware software, they are generally seeking to cause harm in some manner. Their purposes go far beyond surveiling the computer user. Spyware software made by hackers is created with the purpose of either stealing personal information or ruining certain computer functions.
Hackers conceal spyware software through various disguises. The most common are the following:
* Spam: Spam is annoying, and sometimes harmful when it includes spyware software. Never open emails from a source you don’t recognize.
* Pop-ups: Pop-ups are another inconvenience that can carry far greater consequences. Be sure not to click “okay” or “yes” or even “cancel” on pop ups. Even the ones that say they’ve detected spyware on your computer can actually be spyware software.
* Keyloggers: These are the worst kind of spyware software. Usually you won’t even be aware they exist on your computer. Keyloggers record your every keystroke and send back personal information to the hacker.
With cautious Internet habits and antispyware software, most spyware from hackers can be detected, cleaned, and prevented.