What is Spyware?

Tips & Hints

I’ve been told that I have spyware on my computer? What is it?

Posted 18 January 2002

In computers we have are all sorts of wares.

There is Nagware, software that nags you to register.

Malware is bad software, as in viruses and worms.

Our favourite is Vapourware, software or features that are coming "real soon now".

Shareware is software that the author wants to share.

A curse of the computer industry is Bloatware, software that is oversized and bloated.

Spyware monitors what you do on the Internet and reports back to its writer. Many free programs include some kind of spyware. The software companies hope to make some money from the demographic information collected by the spyware.

Having software like this on your computer raises a number of concerns. Naturally privacy is a major issue, the spyware companies claim all the information collected is anonymous when this has been shown not to be true. Because spyware loads with the computer, it is using some of your computer resources and can cause system crashes.

One of the most irritating points with spyware is that you are rarely warned about it being installed on your computer. Even worse, when you remove the original program the spyware often remains on the system.

Like spam, spyware is a fact of life with computing. Unlike spam you can actually do something about it. Firewalls like Zone Alarm will report what programs are trying to get onto the Internet and allow you to block them. Other programs like Ad-Aware keep track or what programs are spyware and disable them.

Should you be worried about spyware? Well, if you accept that losing your privacy is the cost of free or cheap software then fine. On the other hand, you can reduce its impact by being careful about what you install on your computer and having the tools to disable it.

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