Spyware is software that can monitor a user's activities on a computer or even take partial control of the computer. It is almost always installed without the user's consent and is often used to collect personal information (including financial information such as credit card numbers) and transmit it to some external destination.
Spyware can include delivering pop-up advertising and monitoring of web sites visited. Spyware normally hides itself from the user and does not provide an easy uninstall routine, which is different from legitimate software, which will always provide an easy method of uninstalling the application.
Recent surveys suggest that between 60 and 90 percent of PCs could be affected with Spyware, with the vast majority of users being unware of this problem.
Spyware infections can seriously slow down the performance of a computer system. It can cause applications to crash and may make connections to the Internet difficult.
Spyware does not spread in the same way as viruses or worms, and infected systems do not usually try to pass on the infection to others. One common source of spyware infections is peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs such as Kazaa and Limeware. Spyware is often bundled with these, and installed secretly when the user installs these programs. In sone cases, the file-sharing program will stop working if the spyware is removed.
Another route of infection is to trick the user into visiting a website which invisibly downloads and installs the software. This is known as a 'drive-by' download. These can be minimised by ensuring that your browser software is up to date and by making the security settings high enough to detect unauthorised downloads, e.g. at least the 'Medium' setting for Internet Explorer.
Click on the video below to learn all about spyware.
Adware is another type of malware that is causing a lot of bother and creating a nuisance of itself.
Adware is any software that causes unwanted adverts to appear when a user is using their system.
Sometimes these adverts appear as pop-up boxes that cause other pop-up boxes to appear even when the user tries to close them down. It may take the user many clicks of the mouse to get rid of the adverts, even to the extent of closing their browser or shutting down or restarting their system.
Adware is generally classified as a type of spyware because it is installed without the user's knowledge or permission.How Adware Works
Adware spies on users and tries to display adverts based on a user's browsing habits. The software will examine words typed by the user into search engines and also the type of web pages a user visits. The software will then display adverts that will be of interest to the user.
Note: This type of advertising should not be confused with legitimate advertising that commercial interests pay for to appear on popular web sites.
Adware: Read the Small Print
There are certain times when adware is actually a legitimate part of another computer program, usually freeware. Some freeware publishers bundle adware with their software because they receive money to do so. In this case, the publisher will include a warning about the adware during program installation using the End-User Licence Agreement (EULA). The user then knows about the adware and can choose to accept the licence agreement or not.
The following is a list of free anti-spyware programs that are very popular and useful.
Microsoft has announced that it will be building anti-spyware protection into future versions of Windows, but at the moment users of XP and 2000 can download it for free from the Microsoft website.
Once the anti-spyware has been installed it can be set to scan the system for spyware that can be deleted. There are generally two types of scan that can be carried out:
If this is the first time installation then a Deep Scan should be performed to check all of your system. After that, regular Quick Scans, and occasional Deep Scans, should be enough to keep persistent spyware out.
All good anti-spyware software allows for the regular updating of its spyware database. This is a vital component because of the growing number of different spyware programs created every day. Updates can be downloaded manually on a regular basis or automatically at a certain time (often during the night).
Take care when downloading anti-spyware programs. Many programs are fake and rather than removing spyware actually provide your computer with more spyware. Spyware Quake and Spyware cleaner are 2 such examples.
Anti-spyware software works like anti-virus software. It is run and the software scans for spyware, diallers, Trojans, registry entries, etc. Once found the offending items can be removed.
Another threat to Internet security and safety is the use of key logging software.
Key Loggers are programs designed to capture and record every key you press, including your passwords and confidential information.
Key logging software works in a similar way to spyware by running invisibly in the background. The main difference is that the key logger software will record all of the keyboard interaction on your computer.
Typically, the information recorded is stored on your computer in an encrypted log files to be retrieved later. Some key logging programs are set up to e-mail the log files back to the Internet criminal.
The video below shows a key logger being created, and then hidden in another unrelated, hatmless program to avoid detection from anti-virus software.
Click to see a keylogger being created. Simple to do, hard to detect.
These are programs that take over a user's modem, causing it to dial out to a premium rate number and possibly rack up a huge telephone bill. Rogie diallers are generally only considered to be a problem for dial up users. As more and more people have access to broadbamd services, rogue diallers become less of a threat. However, broadband users who have a dial-up modem installed should be careful to ensure that it is disconnected from the telephone line, otherwise there is still a possibility of a rogue dialler taking charge.