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(Or "adware") Any type of software that transmits information without the user's knowledge.

Information is sent via the Internet to a server somewhere, normally as a hidden side effect of using a program. Gathering this information may benefit the user indirectly, e.g. by helping to improve the software he is using. It may be collected for advertising purposes or, worst of all, to steal security information such as passwords to online accounts or credit card details.

Spyware may be installed along with other software or as the result of a virus infection. There are many tools available to locate and remove various forms of spyware from a computer.

Some HTTP cookies could be considered as spyware as their use is generally not made explicit to users. It is however possible to disallow them, either totally or individually, and some are actually useful, e.g. recording the fact that a user has logged in.



Software that sends information about your Web surfing habits to its website. Often quickly installed in your computer in combination with a free download you selected from the Web, spyware transmits information in the background as you move around the Web. Also known as "parasite software," "scumware," "junkware" and "thiefware," spyware is occasionally installed just by visiting a website (see drive-by download).

Spyware May Even Identify Itself
The license agreement that nobody ever reads may actually state that you are installing spyware and explain what it does. For example, it might say that the program performs anonymous profiling, which means that your habits are being recorded, not you individually. Such software is used to create marketing profiles; for example, people who go to website "A" often go to site "B" and so on. Spyware may deliver competing products in real time. For example, if you go to a Web page and look for a minivan, an ad for a competitor's vehicle might pop up (see adware).

Spyware Is Focused
Merchants place ads with spyware advertisers because they feel their promotions are focused. In fact, many feel that the Internet has opened up the most intelligent marketing system the world has ever seen. Merchants say they are targeting prospects who are really interested in their products, and spyware vendors argue that as long as they treat users anonymously, they are not violating privacy.

There are also spyware programs that keep changing the home page in the browser to a particular website or just keep popping up ads all the time (see adware). Nevertheless, once you detect spyware, it can be eliminated, albeit with difficulty sometimes.

Spyware blockers can detect an invasion of spyware into your computer and have become as popular as antivirus programs. See PUP, spyware blocker, adware, snoopware, parasite, spam and wares.

Spyware Vs. Viruses

Since spyware and adware are unwanted software, it would seem that antivirus software should detect spyware and adware as well as viruses and Trojans. Although some security suites provide all these capabilities, antispyware and antivirus modules are typically separate functions.

Perhaps, it evolved in different camps because the intent of the software is different. Virus writers want to be exposed to the world at large so they can one-up their peers, the "xyz virus contaminated 100 million computers" type of glory. On the other hand, spyware writers want their software to remain hidden and perform their tasks for months to come.

However, Trojans are viruses that are designed to remain hidden in the computer as well, so the two philosophies do overlap. Perhaps, in time, a new category of "anti-insanity" software will take care of all of it.
References in periodicals archive ?
Mi5's Enterprise Spygate(TM) provides the best gateway protection available today, not only preventing new infections, but also preventing already infected desktops from sending sensitive information back out, and prioritizing machine cleanup by spyware severity.
SurfControl's Enterprise Protection Suite has redefined traditional "filtering" by offering a unified threat management solution that eliminates spam, spyware and phishing attacks, as well as Web and e-mail abuse.
The State of Spyware report is issued quarterly as an in-depth review and analysis of the impact of spyware, adware and unwanted software on consumers and enterprises.
People lose as much as 50 percent of bandwidth to spyware," notes Taylor, whose higher ed clients include Tufts University (Mass.
Legitimate Web sites have accidentally introduced spyware to their visitors through spyware-infected banner ads.
1) -- You must detect what Spyware is residing on your system as well as where it has decided to lay its ugly nest.
Districts are advised to check spyware lists before installing freeware or shareware, run anti-spyware programs weekly, read the fine print in user agreements, and limit system installation access to selected staff members.
Tested at the same time and using the same sample-set, PC Tools' Spyware Doctor quick scan blocked 83.
SurfControl will also help to create guidelines and process for combating spyware.
Powered by Phileas, the security industry's automated spyware research system to actively pursue and identify spyware, this new engine protects customers from over 100,000 traces of spyware by automatically updating spyware definitions at least twice a week.
Webroot uses its Threat Research Team and an automated spyware research system called Phileas, designed to identify spyware anywhere on the web, to develop and maintain its spyware definition database.
Included in the report is concise data of the pervasiveness of adware and the rise of system monitors throughout 2004 and for the first quarter of 2005 The report indicates that the spyware industry is generating billions of dollars in annual revenue and now represents a substantial portion of overall online advertising spending.