Spyware...Give it the boot!
Spyware, or adware, is software that could have
been installed on your system without your approval or knowledge.
It could be sprouting unexpected, pop-up ad's over your web browser.
It could be watching your surfing and reporting your habits to a
marketing company. Steve Gibson is credited with first identifying
it as "any software which employs a user's Internet connection
in the background without their knowledge or explicit permission."
Why is it bad? Well, for starters
it invades your privacy and jeopardizes your computer's security.
Since it is designed to operate in the background of your computer
use, it consumes some of your computer's processing power and storage
space. Also, No one can tell exactly what information the spyware
is sending back to the home office. It could be specific personal
information about your surfing habits, or even data from your files.
The traffic is encrypted so you can't be sure what's being sent
back. On another level, it's just plain obnoxious. Would we tolerate
someone opening the front door of our house and looking in to see
what we're doing, all without our permission?
So, how did it get on your computer?
There are many ways, some are easy to identify, like from shareware,
while others are far more sneaky. Shareware programs that are supported
through banner ads generally install spyware. Spyware has a legitimate
use: to update the ads and measure click-through so the software
author can get paid. In order to do this, the spyware program must
communicate periodically with the home office using your Internet
connection. Almost all ad-supported shareware programs do this.
One convenient flaw of their software though is that when you un-install
the host software (the shareware that it came with), the spyware
is almost never removed--it stays on your computer and continues
it's activity. Many times, spyware is installed when you think you
are installing some useful program, whether you paid for that host
program or it was offered 'FREE'--like the 'Weather Bug' software
I've seen on numerous client computers.
Here are some examples of spyware installations
that I've observed:
- Weather Bug program or News notification program
from TV stations
- Date Manager (By GAIN or Gator Inc.---a pretty
- Download managers (such as with the free RealPlayer
- Bonzi Buddy (another really sleezy outfit makes
So, now what? How do you get rid of this
stuff? One very good tool that is free is called AdAware
by LavaSoft. I use and recommend this tool. Its proceedures
are straight-forward and easy to understand. LavaSoft also has more
advanced functions added in their 'Plus' and 'Pro' versions that
are not free. Another excellent choice is Spybot
Search & Destroy by Patrick Kolla---I'm just starting to
evaluate this one, but it looks good.
The key to successfully using such utilities is
much like that of Anti-Virus software utilities---keep it up-to-date
and run it often! These are not tools that you install and run once
and think your machine is safe for the next 2 years.
Interesting link: SpyChecker
database (gives information on many kinds of spyware)