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Is Adware - Spyware Putting Your Privacy at Risk

Do you sometimes notice your computer running slower. Is your computer acting strange almost like its possessed? Well, it just may be plagued with Spyware. Spyware is a common term for files that are installed on your system without your knowledge. It allows companies to monitor your Internet activity. Believe it or not, Spyware is now the leading threat to our computers, and our online privacy. It's ahead of viruses.

Spyware programs work behind the scenes, collecting and sending information about your browsing habits; and interfering with the normal operation of your machine. They can add toolbars that you didn't request, run programs, and even alter your system settings.

Aware, or advertising-supported software, is any software application in which advertisements are displayed while a program is running. It is commonly know as pop ups. System Monitors can keep track of every keystroke that you make on your computer. Yep! Credit card numbers, bank account information, and everything else that you don't want to share with thieves.

Adware is not a virus and may not be detected by anti-virus scanning programs. It does not spread the same way as most viruses spread. Many users do not know they are downloading a free program along with adware onto their computer. Some spyware is clever enough to hide in your hard drive. For those who haven't yet had an encounter with spyware, count your blessings and hope your time never comes. Be careful. Don't just download programs that are free, or sound too good to be true. We all know that anything that's sounds too good to be true, usually is.!!

What is Adware?

Adware is any software application that has the ability to display advertisements on your computer. Some adware may track your surfing habits. These ads may be displayed in many forms, including pop-up, pop-under and banner ads. Remember, adware that tracks your movements and generates a profile of your habits should be regarded as a threat or risk to your online security. Using your information without your knowledge is an invasion of privacy.

How Does it Work?

Adware watches as you surf the internet and disrupts visits by popping up context-related promotions right on top of the screen, causing you to second guess your next online move. Stay on one website, or click on the pop-up and go to a new site. Adware is "a form of spyware that collects information about the user in order to display advertisements in the Web browser based on the information it collects from the user's browsing patterns."

There are scores of Antivirus programs readily available today. They can sometimes catch spyware and for the most part do a fair job. The best two products in my opinion for detecting spyware are Spybot and Ad-aware and are both available as free download. Both are dedicated anti-spyware products.

How Spyware Gets Into Your System

Spyware files are often combined together with other software downloads so users don't even know they're getting these programs. Or you unwittingly invite them into your systems, believing you are getting something else. So sad, but oh so true! With just one innocent click of the mouse you can unleash a vicious program masquerading as anti-spyware, but is actually an unwanted program. Spyware can make your life miserable. It can and will make everything you try to do possible to prevent its removal. It can block the downloading of genuine real anti-spyware software. It can substitute one of its own advertising pop-up pages every time you open your browser. It can prevent the download of pop-up blocking software; and the list goes on. Spyware is similar to a Trojan horse in that users unknowingly install the product when they install something else.

Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. However, it should be noted that the majority of shareware and freeware applications do not come with spyware. 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. Aside from the questions of ethics and privacy, spyware steals from the user by using the computer's memory resources and also by eating bandwidth as it sends information back to the spyware's home base via the user's Internet connection. Because spyware is using memory and system resources, the applications running in the background can lead to system crashes or general system instability.

Pop-up Ads

Pop-up ads turn up when you launch a web site, and as you browse the internet. Pop-ups come in different forms, but they generally want to sell you something. By clicking anywhere in this type of pop-up window, you may trigger a spyware install off your radar in the background. Illegitimate pop-ups can perform programs and are downloaded without your knowledge or consent. A similar pop-up ploy asks you to accept a download, and then won't stop popping up until you do what they want. Many users have low internet security settings and these low settings allow the operating system to perform various activities on your computer without letting you know beforehand. Don't be fooled. Pop-ups could install spyware on your PC to capture and transmit your personal data across the internet. Or it could be adware, another form of spyware.

Common sense tips for avoiding spyware:

If a program looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Practice safe surfing

Beware of cookies, be cautious

Secure your browser

Delete all spam

Beware of peer-to-peer file sharing services

Run anti-spyware software daily

Be extremely cautious when considering a download of any kind. It's hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys today. Many legitimate free programs include spyware in their downloads.

Important - Read the license agreement carefully before proceeding. Established spy software companies usually ask purchasers to agree through a EULA (End User License Agreement) not to monitor users without their knowledge and consent. READ ? READ - READ.

Common Terms Used in the Article:

Adware tracking cookies trigger the most common form of pop-up ads. Cookies that reside on your PC serve up pop-up ads related to the site you are visiting and expose your personal information or online activities. The more cookies you have on your PC, the more pop-ups you'll see.

Spyware applications often install a new search toolbar on a system with the intention of hijacking searches for search terms. Works behind the scene collecting personal data.

Dialers can initiate outgoing calls from your PC to 900 numbers with the sole intention of generating large phone bills charged to that phone line. Dialers can also change your dial-up settings to an international or 900 number, instead of your local Internet dial-up number Spies intentionally 'misuse' monitoring software. Here's an excellent article on Auto- Dialers. Established spy software companies usually ask purchasers to agree through a EULA (End User License Agreement) not to monitor users without their knowledge and consent. You guessed it- most spies have absolutely no intention of letting users know they are under surveillance. Unidentified toll charges will appear on your phone bill.

Trojan horses are a malicious, security breaking programs disguised as something benign. Deleting history and computer use logs does nothing against true spyware. While erasing usage history is useful to protect your privacy, this type of protection is useless if your activity is being logged or snapshots are being taken of your computer use. Deleting history, files, cache and cookies cannot, and will not, protect you against the prying eyes of active spies on your machine.

Anti-Spyware Software Programs ? Free Downloads

There are numerous free programs that can be downloaded. Get some good anti-spyware software as soon as possible. Run them frequently. Check the list below for some Free downloads.

Online guide to Spy & Anti-Spy Software

Eliminate an insidious pest that Spybot and Ad-aware can't stop.

Microsoft Anti-Spyware Beta

Block Web bug elements in email messages without having to turn off HTML.

Spy Ware Doctor

Additional resources and downloads

One Final Note

Be suspicious if you are offered a free demo version that requires you to pay for the full version before it will remove any spyware it finds on your system. The best anti-spyware software is totally free and you get the full working version. Only use anti-spyware that has been recommended by a trusted source. There are many scammers out there doing a convincing job of representing themselves as legit.

Don't be tricked by similar, look a like products. Here is one I ran across some time ago: At first you would think its Ad-ware, but after a second look it's Ada-ware instead of the excellent anti-spyware product Ad-aware. They are every so clever and are constantly finding ways to infect are systems. The spread of spyware has become much more than a nuisance. It has now reached the level of an epidemic. Some spyware is relatively harmless. However, a good deal of spyware can be very dangerous, leaking your very private and confidential information to scammers and other people. Knowing how spyware works and which programs to fight spyware with are both important.

The safest way to remain free from spyware is to use one or more anti-spy programs that actively scan your system for intrusion and utilities that help inoculate your system from penetration. Good anti-spy programs will use a variety of methods for detection including registry scanning, signatures, windows titles and other that spyware leaves on your machine.

Even with anti-spy software programs active, do not develop a false sense of security. The battle to contain these programs rages on a daily basis. One lapse in security can lead to unwanted infection. So above all- use common sense. Don't download files or open e-mail attachments from sites you don't know or trust. Be sure you have good anti-virus and firewall software running at all times

Always make sure that any website that you make purchases on uses a secure server. The Web address should start with https:// rather than just http:// and there should be a padlock visible on the bottom of your browser window. Spyware may be sold under legitimate pretenses. Because of this legitimacy these programs are often missed by anti-virus software designed to target viruses and Trojan horses.

Blogs If you are a blogger the information should be of interest to you.

Hackers are using blogs to infect computers with spyware, exposing serious security flaws in self-publishing tools used by millions of people on the Web. I would explain what a blog is.

Blogs Carry Spyware Infections This is just too icky.

"Hackers are using blogs to infect computers with spyware, exposing serious security flaws in self-publishing tools used by millions of people on the Web.

The problem involves the use of JavaScript and ActiveX, two common methods used to launch programs on a Web page. Security experts said malicious programmers can use JavaScript and ActiveX to automatically deliver spyware from a blog to people who visit the site with a vulnerable Web browser.

Spyware tools also have been hidden inside JavaScript programs that are offered freely on the Web for bloggers to enhance their sites with features such as music. As a result, bloggers who use infected tools could unwittingly turn their sites into a delivery platform for spyware."

Reference URL: Is your blog a carrier?


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Copyright © 2005 ? Mike Pulli. All rights reserved.

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