Hiding where you can’t find it, spyware collects information about you and what you do on the internet.
Spyware doesn’t respect your privacy. In fact, its sole purpose is to record your personal information and what you do with your computer on the internet. By secretly installing itself on your computer, this software collects and communicates the results of its compilation to those who originally built the program. Once your personal data is sent, you have no control over what happens to it or how it’s used.
If you do any online banking or make purchases online using your credit or debit card, beware. This information can be gathered by spyware that you don’t even know is installed on your computer.
The most common method for installation of spyware on your computer is by piggybacking on the installation of legitimate software on to your system. You know all of those license agreements you don’t spend time reading before accepting? Well, that’s where information regarding other software programs that may or may not be installed on your system at the same time as the program you meant to install resides. Often there will be disclaimer language in the license agreement regarding your browsing habits and data being sent to the company for their use. So it may be worth spending a few extra minutes to review the agreement instead of just blindly accepting it.
Most of the data gathered about you will be used for advertising and marketing purposes. And unlike viruses, spyware doesn’t try to take complete control of your computer. However, spyware can scan files on your hard drive, listen in to your instant messaging chats, review cookies, record and send information on your browsing habits, etc… So that’s why most people regularly scan their systems for known spyware and remove it if found.
There are several free anti spyware programs available for download off the internet. Some of the most popular are:
- Spybot Search & Destroy
- Windows Defender – (comes standard as part of Microsoft’s Vista operating system)
- Trend Micro – (Free Tools & Services)
Have you ever wondered why your anti-spyware software doesn’t detect everything? The reason why may surprise you.
Many of you have probably wondered why it seems that some anti-spyware programs detect and clean spyware and adware better than others. You might have assumed that some are better at it than others and if you did you are at least half right. Every time you run your anti-spyware software it is almost certain to fail at catching a few programs. The reason may be that your spyware removal tool has delisted some adware.
What is Delisting?
Many of the companies which provide anti-spyware software such as Lavasoft, PestPatrol and Aluria have stopped detecting the adware from firms like WhenU and Claria. The adware is still there. The software simply no longer detects it for you. The reason why is both shocking and alarming.
If you expected the people responsible for adware and spyware to roll over and die, guess again. To keep their businesses alive, they continually petition anti-spyware companies to delist their programs. Some spyware business go as far as sending cease-and-desist letters with threatening language and promising legal action.
One of the most alarming aspects of delisting is that the customers using anti-spyware programs have no idea that their tools aren’t cleaning everything off their systems if they are unaware of the fact that certain programs have been delisted. Even if you are aware that delisting does occur how will you know which programs your anti-spyware skips? By not informing their customers about which programs are delisted their PC security tools could be giving them a false sense of sucurity.
Some spyware programs are more harmful than others
While many spyware programs do little more than serve ads there are some that go as far as making drastic changes to computer configurations. When written poorly, these spyware programs can interfere with the normal operation of your computer. Some spyware companies resort to exploiting security holes in order to install themselves. The illegal tactics of a few spyware companies have led others to argue that since their firms don’t resort to such practices lumping them all together can hurt the reputations of those that don’t.
Some have also claimed that just being listed in an anti-spyware program’s database can call a business’ integrity into question. Their argument is basically that it’s not a crime to be annoying and intrusive as long as you don’t cause any damage.
Most savvy computer users will scan their computers for spyware and adware using two to three anti-spyware programs to improve your chances of detecting spyware. The more anti-spyware tools you employ the better since each anti-spyware company has it’s own rules for who gets listed or delisted.
The debate over delisting
It would be so easy to permanently blacklist a company and it’s software based on it’s behavior in the past but that wouldn’t be fair. Some delisting does occur although it’s a tricky and dangerous process for anti-spyware developers. Histoprically, many spyware and adware companies tweaked their software just enough to get delisted. Once they were delisted, they would repeat the activity that got them on the list in the first place.
Because of this anti-spyware companies resist attempts to have spyware delisted. They standup to these strongly worded letters and fight they spyware companies every step of the way. The result is that spyware delisting is a rare event.
It may come as no surprise that adware companies go so far as attempting to redefine themselves. They feel that the term spyware is viewed negatively and have worked to create definitions that they feel are friendlier yet mean essentially the exact same thing. Some examples are: grayware, potentially unwanted programs or potentially unwanted software.
If you thought things were already confusing enough for consumers you can see what this kind of redefinition could lead to.