Spyware is computer software that is installed surreptitiously on a personal computer to intercept or take partial control over the user’s interaction with the computer, without the user’s informed consent.The malicious software goes by many names: Spyware, worms, viruses, Trojans, Adware, keystroke loggers, pests, and more. “Spyware” often is used to mean all malicious software other than viruses. I prefer the term “malware” as it’s a bit more descriptive. This page is for removing any type of malware.
Unlike viruses and worms, Spyware does not usually self-replicate. Like many recent viruses; however, Spyware by design exploits infected computers for commercial gain.
Typical tactics furthering this goal include delivery of unsolicited pop-up advertisements; the theft of personal information (including financial information such as credit card numbers, other account Details); monitoring of Web-browsing activity for marketing purposes; or routing of HTTP requests to advertising sites.
Spyware can also come bundled with Shareware or other Downloadable software, as well as music CDs. The user downloads a program and installs it, and the installer additionally installs the Spyware. Although the desirable software itself may do not harm, the bundled Spyware does. In some cases, Spyware authors have paid shareware authors to bundle Spyware with their software. In other cases, Spyware authors have repackaged desirable freeware with installers that add Spyware.
A third way of distributing Spyware involves tricking users into manipulating security features designed to prevent unwanted installations. Internet Explorer invites websites from initiating an unwanted download. Instead, it requires a user action, such as clicking on a link. However, links can prove deceptive: for instance, a pop-up ad may appear like a standard Windows dialogue box. The box contains a message such as “Would you like to optimize your Internet access?” with links which look like buttons reading Yes and No. No matter which “button” the user presses, a download starts, placing the spyware on the user’s system. Later versions of Internet Explorer offer fewer avenues for this attack.
How Affects, Effects and behaviours
A Spyware program is strictly alone on a computer: an affected machine can quickly be infected by many other components. Users frequently notice unwanted behaviour and degradation of system performance. A spyware infestation can create significant unwanted CPU activity, disk usage, and network traffic, all of which slows the computer down. Stability issues, such as an application or system-wide crashes, are also common. Spyware, which interferes with networking software commonly causes difficulty connecting to the Internet.
In some infections, the spyware is not even evident. Users accumulate in those situations that the issues relate to hardware, Windows installation problems, or a virus. Some owners of badly infected systems resort to contacting technical support experts, or even buying a new computer because the existing system “has become too slow”. Badly infected systems may require a clean reinstallation of all their software in order to return to full functionality.
Many spyware programs display advertisements. Some programs simply display pop-up ads on a regular basis; for instance, one every few minutes, or one when the user opens a new browser window. Others display ads in response to specific sites that the user visits. Spyware operators present this feature as desirable to advertisers, who may buy ad placement in pop-ups displayed when the user visits a particular site. It is also one of the purposes for which spyware programs gather information on user behaviour.
Many users complain about irritating or offensive advertisements as well. As with many banner ads, many spyware advertisements use animation or flickering banners which can be visually distracting and annoying to users. Pop-up ads for pornography often display indiscriminately. Links to these sites may be added to the browser window, history or search function. When children are the users, this could potentially violate anti-pornography laws in some jurisdictions.
Anti-spyware programs often report Web advertisers’ HTTP cookies, the small text files that track browsing activity, as spyware. While they are not always inherently malicious, many users object to third parties using space on their personal computers for their business purposes, and many anti-spyware programs offer to remove them.
It is recommended that users DO NOT INSTALL any Freeware claiming to be anti-spyware unless it is verified to be legitimate. Some known offenders include:
Errorsafe (AKA system doctor)
PAL Spyware Remover
Spyware Quake Spydawn
WinAntiVirus Pro 2006