|As technology advances and more people
come to rely on the Internet for information, leisure, and
business it seems as if keeping your computer free of advertising
is a daunting task. Not technically fitting into either the virus
or spam category we have spyware and adware, which are growing
concerns for Internet users. At times these programs may invade
your privacy, contain malicious code, and at the very least they
can be a nuisance when using a computer connected to the Internet.
Adware is considered a legitimate alternative offered to consumers
who do not wish to pay for software. Programs, games or utilities
can be designed and distributed as freeware. Sometimes freeware
blocks features and functions of the software until you pay to
register it. Today we have a growing number of software developers
who offer their goods as "sponsored" freeware until you pay to
register. Generally most or all features of the freeware are
enabled but you will be viewing sponsored advertisements while the
software is being used. The advertisements usually run in a small
section of the software interface or as a pop-up ad box on your
desktop. When you stop running the software, the ads should
disappear. This allows consumers to try the software before they
buy and you always have the option of disabling the ads by
purchasing a registration key.
In many cases, adware is a
legitimate revenue source for companies who offer their software
free to users. A perfect example of this would be the popular
e-mail program, Eudora. You can choose to purchase Eudora or run
the software in sponsored mode. In sponsored mode Eudora will
display an ad window in the program and up to three sponsored
toolbar links. Eudora adware is not malicious; it reportedly
doesn't track your habits or provide information about you to a
third party. This type of adware is simply serving up random paid
ads within the program. When you quit the program the ads will
stop running on your system.
Unfortunately, some freeware applications which contain adware do
track your surfing habits in order to serve ads related to you.
When the adware becomes intrusive like this, then we move it in
the spyware category and it then becomes something you should
avoid for privacy and security reasons. Due to its invasive
nature, spyware has really given adware a bad name as many people
do not know the differences between the two, or use the the terms
Spyware is considered a malicious program
and is similar to a Trojan Horse in that users unwittingly install
the product when they install something else. A common way to
become a victim of spyware is to download certain peer-to-peer
file swapping products that are available today.
Spyware works like adware but is usually a
separate program that is installed unknowingly when you install
another freeware type program or application. Once installed, the
spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and transmits that
information in the background to someone else. Spyware can also
gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords and
credit card numbers.
Because spyware exists as independent
executable programs, they have the capability to monitor your
keystrokes, scan files on the hard drive, snoop other
applications, such as chat programs or word processors, install
other spyware programs, read cookies, change the default home page
on the Web browser, while consistently relaying this information
back to the spyware author who will either use it for advertising
and marketing purposes or sell the information to another party.
Licensing agreements that accompany
software downloads sometimes warn the user that a spyware program
will be installed along with the requested software, but the
licensing agreements are not always be read completely by users
because the notice of a spyware installation is often couched in
obtuse, hard-to-read legal disclaimers.
While one may not realize they have installed spyware, there are
some signs that it exists on your computer. If you notice any
changes to your Web browser that you did not make such as extra
toolbars or different homepage settings, as well as changes to
your security settings and favorites list, you could have spyware
running on your system. Other signs of a spyware infection include
pop-up ads which aren't related to a Web site you're viewing;
usually spyware advertisements are adult content in nature and are
not displayed in the same fashion as legitimate ads you would
normally see on your favorite Web sites. You may also see
advertisements when you're not browsing the Web. Clicking
hyperlinks which do not work (or take you somewhere you didn't
expect), a sluggish system, or your system taking longer to load
the Windows desktop are all signs that your computer may be
infected with spyware.
With the onset of spyware comes a plethora
of anti-spyware software packages to rid your system of these
unwanted and malicious programs. Anti-spyware software works by
identifying any spyware installed on your system and removing it.
Since spyware is installed like any other application on your
system it will leave traces of itself in the system registry and
in other places on your computer. Anti-spyware software will look
for evidence of these files and delete them if found.
It is important to remember that not all
companies who claim their software contains adware are really
offering adware. There is always a chance that adware is spyware
in disguise so to speak, and that programs with embedded spyware
may not state its existence at all. Always stay on the side of
caution and be sure to research privacy policies and licensing
agreements that come with freeware. You should also become
familiar with Internet lists of companies reported to be using
spyware. Much like a firewall or anti-virus program, anti-spyware
software is crucial to maintain optimal protection and security on
your computer and network.
Common Causes of a slow PC
So what causes a PC to run
slow? There are many causes. Read about some of the most common here.
Editing the Registry
The Registry is a database of nearly all the settings for Windows
operating system and most of your installed applications. Learn how to
edit and clean it yourself.
Unless you know how to avoid it
and/or combat it, you probably have it on your computer.
Learn about viruses and find out how
to scan and remove them for Free.
Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Last updated: November 11, 2004