Spyware is software or hardware installed on a computer
without the user's knowledge which gathers information about
that user for later retrieval by whomever controls the
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 user's 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 computer's 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 user's computer, making the user pay for
the costs associated with operating it. It then makes use of
the user's 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
And while anti-virus software like Symantec's Norton Anti-
Virus or McAfee's ViruScan can offer some protection, one of
the best ways to combat spyware is with anti-spy software.
Two of the best are Lavasoft's Ad-aware and Spybot's 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 haven't already done so, I highly recommend
installing Microsoft's Service Pack 2. SP2 tightens your
PC's 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
PC's security apps.
There are also other steps you can take to protect against
spyware. One simple step is to switch from Microsoft's
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 don't have spyware problems.
About the author:
Dean Phillips is an Internet marketing expert, writer,
publisher and entrepreneur. Questions? Comments? Dean can be
reached at mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org