Spyware, What It Is, What It Does, And How To Stop It


Spyware is software that runs on a personal computer without the knowledge or consent of the owner of that computer. The Spyware then collects personal information about the user or users of the infected computer. The personal information collected is usually the name of the user; the users email address, Websites visited, online shopping habits, as well as various other information about the user.

Spyware is also sometimes known as Scumware, and Adware. Although Adware is slightly different in that the makers claim that the users are aware that they are collecting information about the user. Sometimes this is true, other times it is not. Many times these terms are used interchangeably because many feel that they present the same problems. This however goes to the definition of what Spyware is, making it sometimes difficult to combat from a legal standpoint. This is generally due to how Adware works in that the user downloads a program that they feel is useful for some reason and, that program also collects user information as described above. Although the government is currently taking steps to protect users from these programs it is a slow process because of the current definitions.

Once this information is collected, the Spyware then can send your personal information to advertisers that will then send you targeted advertisements through annoying popups, and spam in your email. They can also hijack your web browser and redirect you to a page that they want you to see with their advertising targeted to you through your personal information. This redirecting is sophisticated enough to notice what you are attempting to purchase on one site and can redirect you to another site with the same or similar products so that you make the purchase through them.

In addition to the problems of "stealing" your personal information, Spyware runs in the background on your computer using up valuable system resources. This is a major cause of your PC "running slow."

The statistics are 9 of 10 computers connected to the internet are infected with some type of Spyware. This could probably be taken a step further to say all PC's connected to the internet are infected with some type of Spyware. The reason for this is because all of the best Anti-Spyware software on the market today can only stop software that it knows or recognizes as Spyware. These Spyware killers work in a way similar to Anti-Virus software and need to be updated on a regular basis to be effective.

Spyware is also a large cause of popups occurring on your computer as well. Popups are messages that "pop up" onto your computer screen generally through your internet browser. These popups can be reduced and at times stopped completely by using a web browser other than IE (Internet Explorer) such as Firefox by Mozilla.org and Opera located at:

http://www.mozilla.org/
http://opera.com/

Both are adept at stopping popups from occurring. If you choose to use one of these browsers be sure to periodically check for updates to get the best protection available.

One of the ways to defend against Spyware is to use a third party firewall. Although the current version of Windows XP comes with a firewall it is not effective at stopping Spyware as of this writing. Third party firewalls can block unwanted traffic from passing to and from the internet to your computer. Some of the better third party firewalls listed below are:

? Kerio Personal Firewall

? ZoneAlarm Firewall

? Sygate Firewall

Kerio Personal Firewall can be downloaded from its Website at the following URL:

http://www.kerio.com/us/kpf_download.html

Although they have a limited free version it does not provide the same level of protection as the paid version does. I would recommend the paid version of their firewall at $45.00. Next there is ZoneAlarm which is perhaps one of the more recognized firewall around. You can get the free version for non business users at the following URL:

http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/company/products/
znalm/freeDownload.jsp

business users can get the paid version here http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/home.jsp

Sygate also has a good firewall that is available for $39.95 available at the URL:

http://smb.sygate.com/products/spf_pro.htm

Firewalls are effective at stopping many Spyware programs as well as other potential problems but they are not a cure all. To be more effective you will want to use Anti-Spyware software along with your firewall.

Some of the top Anti-Spyware programs are Webroot Spy Sweeper which you can buy for $29.95 and Spyware Doctor also $29.95, Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition which is free. Also free is Spybot Search and Destroy. All are good and considered some of the best at Spyware detection and removal. All four of these programs can be downloaded at download.com at URL:

http://www.download.com/spyware-center/2001-2023_4-0.html

You can also use the above URL for additional information about Spyware.

Also available now is the Microsoft beta version of its Spyware blocker.

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?
FamilyID=321cd7a2-6a57-4c57-a8bd-dbf62eda9671&displaylang=en

Unfortunately there are also some very unscrupulous people out there who will purposefully cause your computer problems if you use their software. This software will often "miss" or "overlook" some Spyware leaving it unsuspectingly on your computer. Worse yet, some of these supposed Anti-Spyware programs will actually place Spyware onto your computer as well. Some of these programs are Spyblaster, Spyware Assasin, as well as many others. The best way to check to see if you are using an Anti-Spyware program that fits into this category is to visit The following URL:

http://www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm

If you are using any of the programs in this listing you should remove it immediately and use one of the known good programs such as the ones I listed above to check your computer.

You can also keep up to date and learn more about the on going threat of Spyware by visiting the following websites.

http://www.ftc.gov/infosecurity/

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/spyware

http://spywareinfo.com/

http://spywarewarrior.com/

Copyright © Keith Erwood, 2005 All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Keith Erwood, is an author, and head consultant and owner of www.dynamicnetworktechnologies.net">Dyanmic Network Technologies a computer consulting and services business located in New York City.

Visit us at www.dynamicnetworktechnologies.net">Dynamic Network Technologies


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