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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 machines.

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!



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