The truth about Spyware and Adware

The truth about Spyware and Adware

Spyware Info and Facts that All Internet Users Must Know

You may know spyware by one of its many names; adware, malware, trackware, scumware, thiefware, snoopware, sneakware.

Because of its stealthy nature, most Internet users are more familiar with the symptoms of spyware infection:

  • sluggish PC performance
  • increased pop-up ads
  • unexplained homepage change
  • mysterious search results.

For virtually everyone surfing the Internet, malware and adware are a nuisance, but if you do not detect spyware on your PC, it can lead to much more serious consequences like identity theft. Because of the threats that malware pose, a spyware remover installed on your PC is essential. Gathering spyware info also helps protect yourself from malicious attacks by adware or malware.

Spyware facts:

Experts view malware as a real threat to consumers and businesses. If you’re online, you should be concerned about spyware. You may want to consider adding an anti-spyware program to your PC to remove spyware.

  • Nine out of 10 PCs connected to the Internet are infected with spyware.*
  • A recent spy audit report published by Earthlink and Webroot found an average of 26.5 spyware traces are present on a given PC. In a six-month period, two million scans found 55 million pieces of spyware.
  • 92% of corporate IT managers at companies with more than 100 employees claim they have a “major” spyware problem.**
  • *National Cyber Security Alliance, June 2003
    **Web@Work Study, March 2004

Spyware in the news:

  • “One of the biggest challenges a computer owner can face is getting rid of adware or spyware…” Reuters, Feb. 9, 2004
  • “Spyware is like adware, except that it has gone completely over to the dark side, scanning your hard drive for personal information or attempting to link your surfing habits to your name or email address.” PC World, July 23, 2003

How does spyware find you?

Even if you’re careful, you can pick up adware and other forms of spyware through normal Internet activities. For example if you:

Visit any media-supported website and you’re bound to get a tracking cookie
Share music, files or photos with other users
Install software applications without fully reading license agreements

Isn’t spyware just another passing trend that will eventually fade away?

Unfortunately, no. Spyware and adware makers have found a viable financial model that supports continued activity, whether it’s legal or not. Unlike most other Internet threats, such as viruses that are purely malicious in nature, malware creators profit enormously by selling information on your surfing habits, redirecting you to sites you didn’t intend to visit, or by bombarding you with pop-up ads. Since it is almost impossible to find and stop the makers of adware, or reduce the lucrative financial opportunity, this trend is here to stay.

Spware Defined

Spyware, which includes malware, trackware and adware, is the categorical name for any application that may track your online and/or offline PC activity and is capable of locally saving or transmitting those findings for third parties sometimes with but more often without your knowledge or consent.

Anyone that uses a computer is susceptible to spyware infection. Your online actions, whether you’re surfing the Internet or checking e-mail, can attract spyware files, applications or programs. These programs find their way onto your system and install themselves in several possible places on your PC, including your registry, start up menu, files and folders. Many spyware programs ensure their survival by sprinkling traces of the program throughout your system to make full removal more difficult (and sometimes nearly impossible). Once installed, spyware operates silently in the background.

Spyware jumps onto a PC in a number of ways. It can be installed by a hacker or someone who uses your computer, through a pop-up window or ad, via an instant messenger service, or delivered through a spam e-mail or an attachment in e-mail. File-sharing programs and swapping music, photos or other files are also well-known avenues for spyware infection. Sometimes spyware is bundled with a desired program, and is disclosed in buried text as part of the end-user-license agreement (EULA). These days, spyware may hop onto your system when you visit certain web sites.

Spyware comes in many forms including adware, keyloggers, Trojans, system monitors, browser hijackers, and dialers. It ranges from benign – adware tracking cookies, which let online companies to track your activities on a Web site and tailor pop-up advertising messages based on your choices – to more nefarious spyware programs like Trojans, keyloggers and system monitors, which are capable of capturing keystrokes, online screenshots, and personally identifiable information like your social security number, bank account numbers, logins and passwords, or credit card numbers.

Ultimately, your identity and private information can be compromised by these malicious programs. On a corporate level, spyware can compromise network and data security, corporate assets and trade secrets.

Aside from potential identity theft, many spyware programs steal from you by cluttering your computer’s memory resources and eating bandwidth as it “talks” to the spyware’s home base using your Internet connection. This could lead to your computer suffering system crashes and/or slower performance.

If you haven’t thought about it already, you may want to consider a good spyware remover to protect your PC and your privacy from the prying eyes that are most likely residing on your system. Today, spyware protection is just as important as having a good anti-virus program and a firewall.

Source: Web Root (C)2005 Web Root Software Inc.