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What is spyware?!
those of you who remember reading "1984" and briefly began wondering
if someone was monitoring you through the TV hold on to your seats because it's
not far off the mark -- but it is not your TV you need to worry about - - it's
Many consumers wonder what spyware is and what it does. Spyware programs
are small applications that can get installed on your computer without
your knowledge. These spyware programs can get installed either by
downloading innocent looking software programs that include them or
through ActiveX controls hidden within the source code of participating
web sites or pop-up advertisements while you surf the internet. These
bundled programs and ActiveX controls can install a wide range of
unwanted software onto a users computer.
Now don't get me wrong, I love surfing the internet and I am not against
downloading a software program here or there -- I have downloaded many,
went right to the install button but I will be a lot more selective from
now on after I learned what is behind many of those free deals!
The Misconceptions about Spyware and Adware
There is a lot of confusion about the difference between spyware and
adware. To most of us (the average person) a statement that something is
"ad supported" means that we will have to put up with a few
advertisements - no big deal right? We are all familiar with the concept
of paid advertising on TV & Radio which is sponsored by companies
who pay to have their products advertised on the most popular shows. But
in the case of adware/spyware that is not what it means at all. It is a
whole new game! What these adware and spyware programs are really doing
is bundling additional software along with the one you wanted which they
acknowledge will monitor your web surfing. But unfortunately it does not
Now for the Facts
Currently there are well over 800 shareware - freeware products which
also include adware and spyware and the numbers of web sites that
include these types of installers is impossible to calculate. These
Freeware and Shareware applications are located all over the internet as
easy downloads. They can be found on CNet, Tucows and hundreds of other
locations offering free & low cost bargains. Most of these products
make no real statement that they include adware or spyware and if they
make a vague reference that they are ad supported. Some developers might
include a vague privacy statement which does not fully explain what
information will be gathered or give a full explanation regarding what
will be done with the information.
The known third-party applications bundled with these downloads include
Cydoor, TopText, Onflow, Webhancer, BonziBuddy, ClickTillUWin, and
New.net in addition to trojans and viruses such as the self replicating
Nimda virus. These add on spyware/adware applications can deliver on
line advertisements, collect information, assign computers user's a GUID
for user tracking, overlay content or graphics on the Web site they are
viewing, or modify their system settings.
What is even more alarming is that these estimates do not include the
numbers from the many other download locations scatted across the
internet nor do these figures include estimates of the various other
Gnutella file sharing programs that are available or any of the 900
freeware or shareware programs that are downloaded each let a long the
number of the "drive-by" "backdoor" installations.
If these additional numbers were able to be calculated the total number
of effected computers would be staggering and well be well over 600
million infected computers!
So - What exactly are they installing?
Here is a brief breakdown of what some of these newer adware/spyware
programs can do once they are installed on your computer: In addition to
doing a detailed check of your browser history, they install a wide
assortment of DLLs and other executables files, they send a continuous
data stream to the parent marketing company out from your computer and
leave a backdoor open for hackers to either intercept your personal data
or enter your computer, they can install other programs directly on to
your computer without your knowledge, they can send and receive cookies
to other adware/spyware programs and invite them into your computer
(even if you have cookies disabled), and they can add Trojan horses into
your system which perform a wide range of "mischief" on a users
system including changing your home page and downloading unwanted images
Many spyware and adware programs are fully independent executable files
which are self sufficient programs which take on the authorization
abilities of the user, they include auto install and auto update
capabilities and can report on any attempts to remove or modify them.
These programs can hijack your homepage, reset your browser favoirtes,
reset your auto signature, disable or bypass your uninstall features,
monitor your keystrokes on or off line, scan files on your drive, access
your word processor, e-mail and chat programs, change homepages
inaddition to displaying advertising content on or off line. Many of
these spyware programs can read, write and delete files and in some
instances sometime even reformat your hard drive and they do this while
sending a steady stream of information back to the advertising and
What else can these programs do?
Unfortunately programs like Go!Zilla and LimeWire, iMesh, Kazaa along
with most file-sharing apps, also install several adware applications to
finance its development including TopText and Gator, Cydoor, and
Several of these adware and spyware marketers have been raising a lot of
eyebrows within the internet community. eZula, TopText, Surf Plus, and
Gator have all come under criticism for unethical advertising and
For you consumers out there I would like to throw out a few added
comments about Gator's capabilities. Some of you might have seen the ads
for this product which is advertised as a personal utility program to
assist you in managing your personal information, banking records,
credit card account numbers, passwords and other vital information and
can process forms on your behalf while shopping on online -- sounds
great -- if all the personal information it held was maintained and
remained securely on your personal computer, but all of it does not and
much of it gets included in the data stream to Gator's headquarters
where it can be sold to third parties.
Our highly malicious program has the ability to uninstall and remove a
highly effective program called
that many thousands of consumers use to protect their computers.
Some information for this page has been taken from web site
and PrivacyAnywhere's PestBlock site.