What is spyware?

Spyware is ANY SOFTWARE which employs a user’s Internet connection in the background without their knowledge or explicit permission.

ANY SOFTWARE communicating across the Internet without without user knowledge or consent is guilty of information theft and is properly and rightfully termed: Spyware.

Lots of so called spyware programs DON’T collect specific information about you, but only report general demographics, and therefore are NOT stealing your name, credit card, or other personal information. But these capabilities do exist. Do not wrongly accuse all Adware programs, as proper Adware is a serious revenue model for many software companies that allows you to get products for free, and used correctly does not pose a significant privacy threat.

Imagine that:
– You hack into a bank’s systems. If you get caught – you go to jail.
– You write a worm or virus and spread it around. If you get caught – you go to jail.
– You write a program that spreads a spyware agent on everyone’s computer system and steals their private information, manipulates their internet experience and you use other people’s web sites to show your advertising and you earn money from their work in the process, If you get caught – you don’t go to jail, you may get rich instead.

What are parasites?
“Parasite” is a shorthand term for “unsolicited commercial software” – that is, a program that gets installed on your computer, which you never asked for, and which does something, you probably don”t want it to, for someone else”s profit.

What spyware does?:
– Plagues you with unwanted advertising (“adware”). !!! Not all Adware violates privacy and works without user consent;
– Watches everything you do on-line and send information back to marketing companies (“spyware”);
– Adds advertising links to web pages, for which the author does not get paid, and redirect the payments from affiliate-fee schemes to the makers of the software (such software is sometimes called “scumware”);
– Sets browser home page and search settings to point to the makers” sites (generally loaded with advertising), and prevent you changing it back (“homepage hijackers”);
– Makes your modem (analogue or ISDN) call premium-rate phone numbers (“diallers”);
– Leaves security holes allowing the makers of the software – or, in particularly bad cases, anyone at all – to download and run software on your machine (“trojans”);
– Degrades system performance and cause errors thanks to being badly written;
– Provides no uninstall feature, and put its code in unexpected and hidden places to make it difficult to remove.

Where do they come from?
There are three major ways unsolicited commercial software can make its way on to your machine:
– Some freeware programs are “bundled” with parasites, which are installed at the same time.
– Many parasites load using Internet Explorer”s ActiveX installation option. When a web page includes a link to an ActiveX program, a window will appear asking the user wishes to execute it. If “Yes” is clicked (or if IE security settings are set lower than normal so that it never even asks*), the software is allowed to run and can do anything at all it likes on our computer, including installing parasites.
– Some of the really sleazy parasites, particularly homepage-hijackers and diallers, execute by exploiting security holes in Internet Explorer, ways of getting code to run that are not supposed to be possible, but are due to mistakes in the browser code.

Why doesn”t my anti-virus software detect this?
Technically, most unsolicited commercial software isn”t viral: it doesn”t spread from computer to computer, it just installs and runs on one system. That doesn”t mean it”s not harmful, but anti-virus software does not attempt to detect all software that could be harmful.
Actually some anti-virus programs do detect some of the parasites outlined on these pages, but not nearly all, and not all versions of them. Parasites that install using IE security holes are more likely to be targeted by the anti-virus software vendors, but the selection of targets seems for the most part to be pretty arbitrary.
For this reason there are now a number of anti-parasite packages around that work as a complement to anti-virus software.
This portal is intended to raise awareness of the issue that certain companies through their software installs are placing “Media Plugins”, “SpyWare”, “Backdoor Santas” or “Trojans” on your computers without your explicit permission and then potentially forwarding information about software, browsing & purchasing habits back to their own data collection facilities..

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