Information about Spyware, Foistware and Adware, all under the general heading of Spyware
What is Spyware? In general, it is any program that is installed on your PC
that would send information, such as your browsing or shopping habits or personal profile data,
from your computer to someone else's without your clear knowledge and often, without your permission.
It is often referred to as 'Adware' that tries to tailor the ads you see in web sites
with your browsing habits. 'Foistware' is software running on your PC that hijacks the
ad window from one web site and replaces the intended ads with its own.
Sometimes you agree to install one of these programs, and by doing so, you are agreeing
to let someone else use your computer's idle processing power for their own purposes.
(Have you ever heard your Hard Drive cranking away for a long time, even when you are
not at your PC? Sometimes that's Windows working, sometimes it's not!
Overall, these things are perpetrated by people who take advantage of
clever computing code that manipulates the Internet
our ignorance of the technology
the knowledge that we seldom read T&C (Terms and Conditions) of software we download
How does it get on your PC? Usually it happens when you visit a web site
and you are prompted to download something in order to view or use that web site. Also, you might hear
of a program that has some nice features, but besides those, it installs program code
that can send information out without your knowledge.
Is it doing any other harm to the PC? A lot of these programs automatically load
into memory when you start your computer, sometimes without you having selected an option to do so.
If you get enough of these running, your system's performance will suffer, and there could be conflicts
with other programs.
How do you know if you have any on your system? Some are obvious, because you may
have gotten them in your surfing travels. You may even have a
System Tray Icon that mysteriously appeared one day. These programs are hardly
ever necessary and you might consider removing them.
A new type of adware that produces pop-over and pop-under ads is becoming more pervasive.
These install themselves as what is called a 'BHO', or Browser Helper Object. They work
with Internet Explorer and can cause a pop-up ad each time you change a web page or even
use the 'Back' button. (This is a good clue you have a BHO running. Ordinarily, if a web site
has pop-ups, you might get them when you go to their site or hit the 'Refresh' button, which
causes the site to reload completely. But using the Back button should only go back to the
last screen you were at and does not cause the web page to reload from the web site. If that were
the case, you shouldn't get another pop-up. If you do, it means there is something running
with the browser that gets another ad, even when using the Back button). These are hard to
detect because they don't show up in memory in a list of running programs (since they run with the browser).
The only way to detect them is by using a program like Spybot.
Also, if you have a Firewall program,
such as Zone Labs ZoneAlarm, it will open an 'Alert' window
when a program is attempting to connect out to the Internet for the first time.
That is a clue that some program intends to send data out of your PC
and you should be very suspicious of that.
How do you get rid of them? Some programs, like Comet Cursor or Gator
can go through the standard 'Uninstall' routine under Control Panel|Add/Remove Programs.
The problem with some is that 'Spyware' program code may ride along with another program's
installation, and uninstalling one thing may leave the Spyware behind. Next, get Lavasoft's
AD-Aware. It will scan your PC for known Spyware
and then remove any it finds. Some anti-Spyware web sites will also have the names of
various files that would be present on your system is Spyware is installed. Using the Windows
'Find' (or 'Search') files option, you can easily see if those files are present.
'Alleged' or known Spyware, Foistware or Adware programs
KaZaA (loads Cydoor)
Remember, by downloading a program, you may be legally agreeing to terms that allow a program
to send information out of your PC.
To research this yourself,