Spy Ware Explained

Browsing the Internet these days, you’re bound to see ads for programs that deal with “removing Spy Ware from your PC”. Most of the big sites around have at least one anti-Spy Ware ad inside them, and the reason for this situation is that Spy Ware is so common and it produces so much panic, that combating it became a profitable business.

What is Spy Ware? Spy Ware is the general term used to describe software that covertly gathers user information through the user’s Internet connection without his or her knowledge. Spy Ware applications are usually bundled as a hidden component on some shareware and freeware programs that anyone can download from the Internet.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that all shareware and freeware programs contain Spy Ware, but it’s never a bad thing to look twice when you’re going to download one of these programs from the Internet. Once installed, the Spy Ware program tracks and monitors your activity and passes that information to someone else over the Internet, using your connection. Spy Ware can gather information about e-mail addresses, passwords and even credit card numbers.

Spy Ware Trojan Horse

Spy Ware is similar to a Trojan horse in that users unwittingly install the product when they install something else. Another common way to become a victim of Spy Ware is to download certain peer-to-peer file swapping products that are available today. Aside from breaking ethical rules and privacy, private information theft and or other malicious instructions it is given, a Spy Ware program eats your bandwidth while constantly sending back information to where it is programmed to, it uses your PC’s memory which can lead to instability and system crashes.

Because the Spy Ware is downloaded to your computer as an independent executable program, it can monitor your keystrokes or mouse clicks, scan for files on your hard drive (scan your cookies for example or search for saved passwords), snoop other applications, install other Spy Ware programs or programs with malicious content (viruses, trojans, adware, etc.), constantly sending this gathered information to the Spy Ware author who will probably use the information for advertising purposes (in the best case) or use it to hack into your private belongings (worst scenario – credit cards, bank accounts, site memberships, etc.).

Licensing agreements that accompany software downloads sometimes warn the user that a Spy Ware program will be installed along with the requested software, but the licensing agreements may not always be read completely because the notice of a Spy Ware installation is often couched in obtuse, hard-to-read legal disclaimers.

Check for Spy Ware
Usually it’s easy to see if your computer is infected with Spy Ware. The best places to look (without using an anti-virus or anti-Spy Ware program of course, which is by far the best solution) are your browser’s homepage and your task manager. In the first case, your homepage might be constantly changed by the Spy Ware to an undesired homepage (usually a pornography site, or a catalogue-site) and no matter how many times you change it to Google for example, the next time you restart your computer it will switch back to the undesired homepage.

To check for Spy Ware in the task manager, monitor what programs are running and consuming constant bandwidth and memory. It’s of course quite hard to separate useful programs from Spy Ware, but if you know your way around the task manager, this is one way to go in removing Spy Ware.