Spywares and Adwares are not only an ever-increasing nuisance for computer users everywhere but also a booming industry.
According to Webroot Software, Inc., the distribution of online advertisements through spyware and adware has become a whopping $2 billion industry.
The aggressive advertising and spying tactics demonstrated by some of these programs, require an equally aggressive response from a seasoned eradicator. Sunbelt Software is such a company. A leader in Anti-Spyware, Anti-Spam, Network Security, and System Management tools, they have consistently remained on the cutting-edge of anti-spyware programming since 1994.

So you might be asking:

Spywares and Adwares

“Why do I feel as if somebody’s watching me?”

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, spyware and adware infect more than 90% of all PCs today. These unobtrusive, malicious programs are designed to silently bypass firewalls and anti-virus software without the user’s knowledge.

Once embedded in a computer, it can wreak havoc on the system’s performance while gathering your personal information. Fortunately, unlike viruses and worms, spyware and adware programs do not usually self-replicate.

Where Does It Come From?

Typically, these programs originate in three ways. The first and most common way is when the user installs it. In this scenario, spyware and adware are embedded, attached, or bundled with a freeware or shareware program without the user’s knowledge. The user downloads the program to their computer.

Once downloaded, the spyware and adware program goes to work collecting data for their author’s personal use or to sell to a third-party. Beware of many P2P file-sharing programs. They are notorious for downloads that posses spyware and adware programs.

The user of a downloadable program should pay extra attention to the accompanying licensing agreement. Often the software publisher will warn the user that a spyware and adware program will be installed along with the requested program.
Unfortunately, we do not always take the time to read the fine print.

Some agreements may provide special “opt-out” boxes that the user can click to stop the spyware and adware from being included in the download. Be sure to review the document before signing off on the download.

Another way that spyware and adware can access your computer is by tricking you into manipulating the security features designed to prevent any unwanted installations. The Internet Explorer Web browser was designed not to allow websites to start any unwanted downloads. That is why the user has to initiate a download by clicking on a link. These links can prove deceptive.

For example, a pop-up modeled after a standard Windows dialog box may appear on your screen. The message may ask you if you would like to optimize your Internet access. It provides yes or no answer buttons, but, no matter which button you push, a download containing the spyware and adware programs will commence. Newer versions of Internet Explorer are now making this spyware and adware pathway a little more difficult.

Finally, some spyware and adware applications infect a system by attacking security holes in the Web browser or other software. When the user navigates a webpage controlled by a spyware author, the page contains code designed to attack the browser, and force the installation of the spyware and adware program.

What Can Spywares and Adwares Programs Do?

Spywares and Adwares programs can accomplish a multitude of malicious tasks. Some of their deeds are simply annoying for the user; others can become downright aggressive in nature.

These Programs can:
1. Monitor your keystrokes for reporting purposes.
2. Scan files located on your hard drive.
3. Snoop through applications on our desktop.
4. Install other spyware programs into your computer.
5. Read your cookies.
6. Steal credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information.
7. Change the default settings on your home page web browser.
8. Mutate into a second generation of spyware thus making it more difficult to eradicate.
9. Cause your computer to run slower.
10. Deliver annoying pop-up advertisements.
11. Add advertising links to web pages for which the author does not get paid. Instead, payment is directed to the spyware programmer that changed the original affiliate’s settings.
12. Provide the user with no uninstall option and place itself in unexpected or hidden places within your computer making it difficult to remove.

Examples of Spywares and Adwares
Here are a few examples of commonly seen spyware and Adwares Programs:
(Please note that while researchers will often give names to Spywares and Adwares programs, they may not match the names their writers use.)

CoolWebSearch, a group of programs, that install through “holes” found in Internet Explorer. These programs direct traffic to advertisements on Web sites including coolwebsearch.com. This program nuisance displays pop-up ads, rewrites search engine results, and alters the computer host file to direct the Domain Name System (DNS) to lookup preselected sites.

Internet Optimizer (a/k/a DyFuCa), likes to redirect Internet Explorer error pages to advertisements. When the user follows the broken link or enters an erroneous URL, a page of advertisements pop up.
180 Solutions reports extensive information to advertisers about the Web sites which you visit. It also alters HTTP requests for affiliate advertisements linked from a Web site. Therefore the 180 Solutions Company makes an unearned profit off of the click-through advertisements they’ve altered.

HuntBar (a/k/a WinTools) or Adware.Websearch is distributed by Traffic Syndicate and is installed by ActiveX drive-by downloading at affiliate websites or by advertisements displayed by other Spywares and Adwares programs. It’s a prime example of how Spywares and Adwares can install more Spywares and adware. These programs will add toolbars to Internet Explorer, track Web browsing behavior, and display advertisements.

How Can I Prevent or Combat Spywares and Adwares?

There are a couple things you can do to prevent Spywares and Adwares from infecting your computer system. First, invest in a reliable commercial anti-spyware or Adware program. There are several currently on the market including stand-alone software packages such as Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware. Other options provide the anti-Spywares and Adwares software as part of an anti-virus package.

This type of option is offered by companies such as Sophos, Symantec, and McAfee. Anti-Spywares and Adwares programs can combat these programs by providing real-time protection, scanning, and removal of any found Spywares and Adwares software. As with most programs, update your anti-virus software frequently.

As discussed, the Internet Explorer (IE) is often a contributor to the spyware and Adwares problem because these programs like to attach themselves to its functionality. They enjoy penetrating IE’s weaknesses.

Because of this, many users have switched to non-IE browsers. However, if you prefer to stick with Internet Explorer, be sure to update the security patches regularly, and only download programs from reputable sources. This will help reduce your chances of Spywares and adware infiltration.

And, When All Else Fails?

Noticed I said “when” and not “if”? As Spywares and Adwares are growing in destruction and it covers easily more than 90% of the computers (that’s you and me, 9 in 10!), the only solution you may have is backing up your data, and performing a complete reinstall of the operating system!

So, These are the things you should know about Spywares and adware. You should be careful while downloading and Installing Freeware apps. I hope this article helps you to understand Spywares and adware and how to prevent them. If you have any questions regarding this then please write in the comment section below. Also, share it with your friends and family.

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