Spyware is a term that refers to a category of Software which performs certain behaviors, such as advertising, collecting personal information, or changing the configuration. All of this without obtaining the users consent.
Simply put, spyware is a type of program that watches what users do with their computer and then sends that information over the Internet. Spyware can collect many different types of information about a user. More benign programs can attempt to track what types of web sites a user visits and send this information to an advertisement agency. More malicious versions can try to record what a user types to try to intercept passwords or credit card numbers, and other versions simply launch popup advertisements. While some forms of spyware can certainly be considered malicious, some on the other hand certainly are not, and are more passive in nature by just watching, observing, and collecting information.
Many legitimate companies are now beginning to incorporate forms of spyware and adware into their software, mainly for purposes of advertisement. While these types of programs are not to be considered spyware in the most malicious sense, they are still spyware in the sense of watching, and observing, with advertisement in mind, making them a form of what is called adware.
How it Works
Spyware developers have crafted several different ways to slip spyware into your computer. These methods include:
- Bundled within downloaded software - Spyware often comes hidden with software and music CDs. When the user installs a program, the installer also installs the spyware. The user is getting the wanted program with the unwanted and harmful spyware.
- "Piggybacking"- The spyware is attached to and presented as a useful program or utility.
- Tricking Users - Sometimes spyware programs will change a security feature that was originally created to prevent harmful installations. The popup may look like a normal Windows dialog box with links that appear as real buttons. It doesn't matter which button is clicked, a malignant download will start, installing the spyware on the user's computer.
- "Drive-by download"- According to iwebtool, "Many spyware creators infect a computer by going after the security weaknesses in the web browser or in other applications on the targeted computer." For example, if a user goes to a web site controlled by a spyware creator, the site includes a code that forces the installation of spyware.
Here is a brief list of some of the noted effects of spyware:
- A spyware infected computer will exhibit unusual, unwanted behavior, and a reduction of system performance.
- A spyware infestation can also create unwanted CPU activity, disk usage, and network traffic. All of the above will slow down the computer.
- Application and/or system-wide crashes are also common.
- Some spyware may also interfere with networking software, which can cause difficulty connecting to the Internet.
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