Beware of Spyware & Adware
By John Myers
"Spyware" and "Adware"
are new computer terms for some types of, in my opinion, unwanted
software. A common definition of "Spyware" is software that transmits
personally identifiable information from your computer without your
knowledge. A common definition of "Adware" is software that collects
aggregated usage information for delivering you advertisements tailored
to your habits.
No one intentionally
installs this software. The software is usually included in other
software that you download and install on your computer. Most software
installations contain an end user license agreement (EULA) that
you accept before the software can be installed. Hidden in this
long text screen, that most people don't read, are a few lines telling
you about privacy matters. These few lines in the long EULA are
your warning that this unwanted software could be present.
This type of software
can be as simple as cookies that your web browser uses. A cookie
is a small text file sent by a web server to your web browser to
be read back from that browser. Cookies are a way to have the browser
"remember" specific bits of information. These cookies can be used
by the web server to display, what I call, the Dreaded Advertisement
Blitz. This is where you open one web site and new browser windows
just start opening up; sometimes faster than you can close them.
Even if you don't
care that companies are gathering personal information and surfing
habits information on you, this software consumes computer resources.
It takes up disk space, uses memory, slows running programs and
consumes limited bandwidth.
Getting rid of these
types of software can be very complicated and time consuming. Uninstalling
the parent software program will not necessarily remove the unwanted
software. Many of these "Spyware" and "Adware" software programs
continue to run long after their parent software has been removed.
One sure way to remove them is to reformat your hard drive and reload
the operating system and standard software after first backing up
your data. Who has an extra 4 to 8 hours to do this per machine?
There are a number
of detection and removal software packages available to help with
this problem of "Spyware" and "Adware", Ad-aware, System Detective,
OptOut, NetCop, SpyCop and Spybot to name a few. Most of the software
is priced between $30 and $70, but there is some freeware. You really
have to read the EULA carefully, not all the freeware software is
free. For example, Ad-aware is free if it is used on personal computers
only. It costs if used on commercial, governmental or educational
In researching software
to detect and remove "Spyware" and "Adware" software I had a funny
thing happen. I installed some spy detection software and evaluated
it. I didn't find it that useful so I uninstalled it and installed
another software package for evaluation. The second spy detection
software detected that the first spy detection software had "Spyware"
software still running. You just can't be too careful!