Spyware: What It Is and How to Combat It
Spyware is software or hardware installed on a computer without the users knowledge which gathers information about that user for later retrieval by whomever controls the spyware.
Spyware can be broken down into two different categories, surveillance spyware and advertising spyware.
Surveillance software includes key loggers, screen capture devices, and trojans. These would be used by corporations, private detectives, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, suspicious spouses, etc.
Advertising spyware is software that is installed alongside other software or via activex controls on the internet, often without the users knowledge, or without full disclosure that it will be used for gathering personal information and/or showing the user ads. Advertising spyware logs information about the user, possibly including passwords, email addresses, web browsing history, online buying habits, the computers hardware and software configuration, the name, age, sex, etc of the user.
As with spam, advertising spyware uses the CPU, RAM, and resources of the users computer, making the user pay for the costs associated with operating it. It then makes use of the users bandwidth to connect to the internet and upload whatever personal information it has gathered, and to download advertisements which it will present to the user, either by way of pop up windows, or with the ad banners of ad-supported software. All of this can be considered theft in the cases of advertising spyware that installs without disclosure.
And while anti-virus software like Symantecs Norton Anti- Virus or McAfees ViruScan can offer some protection, one of the best ways to combat spyware is with anti-spy software. Two of the best are Lavasofts Ad-aware and Spybots Search & Destroy, which are available as free downloads.
The free version of Ad-aware does not proactively protect against spyware infestation. You have to start the Ad-aware application and initiate a scan to detect spyware. But the paid version, Ad-aware Plus does remain alert in the background, like Spybot, to deflect any attempts at infestation. In recent tests, Ad-aware Plus and Spybot both protected systems extremely well.
If you havent already done so, I highly recommend installing Microsofts Service Pack 2. SP2 tightens your PCs security with a new Windows Firewall, an improved Automatic Updates feature, and a pop-up ad blocker for Internet Explorer. Plus, the newly minted Security Center gives you one easy-to-use interface for keeping tabs on your PCs security apps.
There are also other steps you can take to protect against spyware. One simple step is to switch from Microsofts browsers, which have security holes for spyware programs to exploit. A good alternative is Mozilla Firefox. Another not- so-simple step is switching to the Mac or Linux operating systems, which dont have spyware problems.
Dean Phillips is an Internet marketing expert, writer, publisher and entrepreneur. Questions Comments Dean can be reached at mailto: email@example.com
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