by: Heather Wallace
Spyware is the cyber-equivalent of a peeping Tom. No one would think of sitting by while
someone hide in the bushes watching their every move, so why do so many allow spyware
snoops to moniter them online? In some cases the answer is simple. They may not e ven know
that they are being watched.
Spyware comes in all shapes and sizes. It can simply be annoying or it can be downright
dangerous. The more worrisome varieties of spyware can:
1. Slow down your system
2. Crash your PC
3. Log your keystrokes
4. Log your email
5. Log your chat sessions
6. Steal credit card details
7. Capture passwords
8. Screen capture your display
9. Collect personal data
10. Collect financial information
What is the Purpose of Spyware?
There are many different parties who may want to collect your perso nal, financial, or sensitive
information and there are several reasons why they might want to have it. Usually spyware users
1. Marketing Companies - They gather data from your PC about which sites you visit,
which products you purchase, and details about the email that you send.
2. Family Members - Even your own loved ones may be monitoring your activity. Parents
can use spyware to keep tabs on the sites that their children frequent and suspicious
spouses could easily use spyware to track their mates activity online.
3. Roommates - Roommates are also possible spyware users. For example, when students
enter college they must cohabitant with people that they don't even know. One of those
people could easily be an unscrupulous person who is gathering important information
4. Employers - Many employers, concerned about employees wasting time online, have
installed snoopware on company computers. This software is designed to moniter both
online and email activity. Your employer, therefore, could be monitoring you and judging
you based not on your work performance, but rather on the content of your email and the
sites that you visit while at work.
5. Crime Organizations - Thieves and all sorts of nefarious sorts use spyware everyday to
collect credit card details, social security numbers, passwords, etc. They then use this
information to steal your identity and, in the process, make a considerable amount of
money while ruining your credit and your reputation.
6. Identity Thieves - Spyware is a vital tool in an identiy thefts arsenal. It allows them to
gather detailed information that they can then use to masquerade as you.
Is There More Than One Type of Spyware?
Spyware is just a broad term for a variety of different programs. A few of the more common
forms of spyware include:
1. Adware - Those annoying pop-ups ads that plaster your screen fall into the category of
adware. Adware also refers to any advertiser supported program. In order to display ads
that are targeted to your interests your activity is monitored and, based on your habits,
you are shown ads that should be of interest to you. Adware also puts a strain on your
system resources because it must connect to a remote server in order to communicate
your personal information with whomever is monitering you.
2. Keystroke Loggers - This type of spyware logs everything that you type. Whether that is
a personal note, a password, or a credit card number. Anything and everything that you
type is captured and forwarded to the person watching your activity.
3. Browser Hijackers - This form of spyware will commonly change your home page to a
so-called search page that is filled with less-than-useful pay-per-click results. This flavor
of spyware also logs the URLs that you visit.
4. Snoopware - This variety of spyware can monitor a PC user's every action. In addition,
these programs were specifically designed to go undetected by the person being
monitored. Snoopware used to be primarily found only in the workplace, but, as
snoopware became more affordable, its usage grew. Employers, suspicious spouses,
coworkers, parents, and strangers are just a few of the people that may unleash
snoopware on your system.
How Spyware Invades Your System Without Warning
The sad fact is that you have probably installed a very malicious spyware program on your
computer without even realizing it. Your system may been infected with spyware if you have
1. File-sharing programs
7. Video clips
Even some programs that can be purchased in stores contain spyware.
Spy(ware Detection) vs. Spy(ware)
It would be virtually impossible to prevent spyware on your own. Even the most hyper- vigilant
defense would most likely let spyware slip through the cracks. The only way to absolutely ensure
that your system is protected is to monitor your computer with spyware prevention and removel
A firewall is another invaluable resource that should be used in conjunction with a spyware
prevention and removal program. The firewall monitors your PC's Internet connection and
shields it from unwanted actions by third-parties. In doing this it prevents spyware from
connecting with remote sites without your permission.
Once spyware infiltrates your system it can be quite a chore to remove. Uninstalling the program
that was bundled with the spyware won't do it. That will only remove the main application from
your system, while the spyware application remains. After spyware has entered your computer
your best course of action is to install a spyware prevention and removal program. In addition to
preventing spyware infection these programs will also remove the spyware that has already
infected your system.
This article was posted on December 15, 2004