What is Spyware
When we talk about spyware we are referring to add-on agents that come with software you thought was free. These add-on agents are mainly from large advertising or data mining companies. The so called spyware collects various bits of information (from surfing habits to computer hardware profiles) and sends them to a mother server. Mostly the collected information is not sent to the developer of the software but rather to advertizing company. In return for your information the media company pays the developer of the software and hence they earn revenue with no monetary cost to you. Spyware is known to mainly come with software that contains adware (that is software that contains ad banners) but this is not always the case so read on. Many spyware products will collect referrer info, your IP address, system information and session details such as time of visit, type of browser used and the operating system in use. Such data is collected and transmitted without your knowledge in the background. You may have agreed to this during the installation of the host software.
Is adware spyware?
Most programs that contain ads often contain spyware (the components are built in). However there are few software titles that display ads and do not have spyware. Such software is not listed in spyware search databases. It's wise to note that some titles may contain spyware but do not contain ads. These are listed on the database.
Is spyware legal?
Despite the name Spyware (coiled by privacy advocates) the actual agent is not illegal if you authorized it (end user agreement). Responsible software developers will mention in detail about any "spyware" that will be installed with their program in the software license.
A different breed of spyware is doing the rounds on at least 7 in 10 computers to various extents. These come as an ActiveX applet and could be displayed (depending on settings) on Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser technology. Once latched onto your system they change your homepage, search preferences, report statistics back, and often crash the system. Attempts to change your preferences or uninstall often fail. In certain environments (eg, work or family) your integrity could be questioned as your browser may cause un wanted pop-ups to open commonly for porn or online gambling.
How do I get rid of spyware?
There are a many programs out on the net that will get rid of spyware for you.
Some good examples are:
After Spyware is removed some applications that used it may not work whilst others might still continue to function.
Some of us don't really mind if some information about our systems and usage get transmitted and recorded. Others only mind if this information can be directly used in the future to personally identify you. It is really a personal choice whether you accept this standard or not. However from a technical view point there are a few concerns. In most cases spyware agents run on your system even while you are not running the software it came with. When you uninstall the host application the spyware agent may remain and still run. (you may have to get a cleaner/remover or download an uninstal l program from the media company). Spyware agents may be buggy (it's hard to publicly beta test them!) and may cause unexplained system crashed. Other examples include what may appear as random crashes, responsiveness issues and general feeling that your system is unwell.
What we think...
Read the license agree before you install software. In the end its your choice. Note your system performance may degrade with such software running or when there are 3 or 4 different agents running taking up system resources.
Regularly search the spyware database (the form is on this page) before you download software just to check if it contains known spyware. It simply informs you so you can check for spyware before downloading/installing a program. It's interesting to note that some of the most popular downloads on the net contain so called spyware!