Infamous spyware parasites that nowadays spread with an incredible rate actually didn’t appear long time ago. Until 1999-2000 nobody knew anything about them. But only five years passed and now spyware is installed on more than 80% of world computers. The number of PCs obsessed with spyware is a way more higher than the total of other viral infections altogether. It is the result of impetuous evolution and abnormal interest in spyware showed by some advertising companies. Leading software vendors and security product developers (Microsoft, Symantec, McAfee and others) already realised huge spyware threat. Today we see the real epidemic, but what to expect tomorrow? In this article we will try to analyse the future of spyware and anti-spyware software taking into account modern-day trends.
Several years ago computers could be infected only by simple spyware programs, which consisted of several registry entries and few files. The user still couldn’t find them, because he simply didn’t knew about such risks. These times have passed. Users became aware of spyware, reputable Internet sites were made especially to introduce the manual removal of parasites and other related information. Tomorrows’s spyware will be a way more difficult to detect. Because of the use of a hiding technique it will be very similar to most complex viruses and related pests. Most spyware will drop randomly named files, add loads of registry entries, so even the advanced user will fail to find them all by himself. Anti-spyware programs will have to implement effective detection engines based on progressive heuristics analysis, which currently is used in modern antivirus software. Results of started evolution are already visible. Remember CWS browser hijacker family? It is a prototype of tomorrow’s spyware.
Spyware programs will get more malicious functions specific to other parasites like trojans, worms or viruses. Earlier main spyware task was to gather information about the user, his computer and browsing habits. However, plenty of recent parasites also hijack a browser, display commercial advertisements, severely compromise the system security, etc. Eventually it is a much more easier and faster task to develop and distribute single multifunctional and complex program than to waste time and efforts creating numerous simple and tiny parasites. Such practice is common for big spyware publishers.
The future of anti-spyware programs is less foggy. It is obvious that products made by large-scale software developers will crowd out small companies programs that historically occupy the biggest part of anti-spyware market. The reason appears to be simple: large companies have more potential to maintain extensive spyware definitions databases, improve software and add new features in it. Only the most modern and professional tools will stay and users will buy them abandoning fully free, but ineffective or amateurish solutions. This means that you have to make the choice now – spyware threat will not vanish.
The further spyware evolution can be stopped by rigid laws. We know the examples. However, such situation is possible only in USA, Wesern Europe and several other countries. Still it is very difficult to punish individual spyware vendors from the rest world.
Unfortunately, spyware threat will grow further. Spyware “business” makes really big money. All we have to do is to learn how to fight spyware and take care of our computer security and consequently our privacy.