What is Spyware?

Spyware (also known as Adware), is software that may be installed on a computer without the user’s knowledge, usually while surfing web sites or while installing one of the many free applications available online (known as “freeware” or “shareware”). Spyware also gathers information about your web surfing habits. A spyware application will seldom notify you that it has been installed or what information it is sending. In many cases, spyware will cause “pop-ups” or ad banners to be displayed on your screen while you are connected to the Internet.

Unsolicited commercial software (spyware) can typically:

  • Watch everything you do on-line and send information back to marketing companies. This is the “spy” part of ‘spyware’
  • Add advertising links to web pages (for which the web page author does not get paid) and redirect the payments from affiliate fee schemes to the makers of the software
  • Set your browser’s home page and search settings to point to the software developers’ sites (generally loaded with advertising) and prevent you from your home page
  • Make your dial-up modem call premium-rate phone number ‘dialers’. The telephone numbers called are usually either in the Caribbean or in Africa, where the toll rates are unregulated
  • Inundate you with unwanted advertising called ‘adware’
  • Slow your system performance and cause system errors
  • Provide no uninstall feature, and place its code in unexpected and hidden places which makes it difficult to remove
  • Create security risks, allowing the developers of the software or others to download and run software on your computer
  • Spyware can often have malicious purposes such as allowing a computer to be controlled remotely, or to be used as a means to distribute unsolicited email
Development: WMAD.