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Be careful what you download

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Preventing Spyware
Spyware is actually more dangerous than a virus. It can steal personal data and track your..... continue


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What is Malware?

The term Malware is used to describe any program that is designed to do harm, although there are different schools of thought as to what is actually harmful.

Adware, Spyware, Viruses, Trojans, Pop-Ups, and even spam have all qualified as computer virus malware.

There are two distinct flavors of Adware. Software supported with advertising is one form or the other more malicious sort. The latter is often termed an Adware Virus whereas the first is just called Adware.

The first could be a useful utility released free of charge but using advertising to generate revenue to support development - similar to TV advertisements. You do not have to watch but if you do you get commercials along with content. Often this type of software is also available in an advertisement free version for a modest price.

The more malicious flavor of Adware virus monitors your browsing and then delivers so called targeted advertisements. This category of software may be considered a type of spyware, especially if it's installed without your knowing and agreement.

When does adware become spyware - well that a somewhat gray area. A number of software vendors claim that disclosing the inclusion of this type of software in the user agreement grants legal consent for its installation. Having said that, how many of us actually read the small print before installing software!

A Spyware virus on the other hand, can have a more insidious meaning. The term Spyware, can refer to software which does much more than simply monitor a user's browsing habits. It can often redirect your browser to completely different sites the majority of which are advertising sites.

This form of Spyware virus is nearly always installed without the user's knowledge and hidden within another program. It can also arrive as the payload of a worm or virus. It's also illegal in many countries. In the U.S. the Federal Trade Commission or FTC has indicted, and in some cases convicted, several purveyors.

Some software suppliers will require that the user install spyware as part of a package. Its inclusion is declared in the user agreement but users do not have the option of not installing it. If the user wants the main program they have to install the spyware as well. File sharing utilities like Kazaa or BearShare are notorious for this practice.

The spyware installed with these, and many other, programs collect information in respect of web browsing habits and then deliver targeted advertising to the user. Targeted advertising is designed to be presented to specific groups, selected by analyzing their buying or browsing habits. Selections are made by discovering gender, age or frequently visited sites or by various other undisclosed criteria.

Spyware vendors argue that it does not collect specific personal information and there is an active debate as to whether it constitutes legitimate market analysis or a violation of personal privacy..

The majority of users find it annoying and intrusive. However, advertisers claim it to be the best way to deliver products and services to potential new customers who may actually end up buying what is offered. Legally, they assert, it is just another form of free speech. Users on the other hand respond that the advertisers free speech does not reach to their browser or email Inbox.


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