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What is Spyware?
Introduction
How prevalent is spyware?
What does spyware do?
Trackware: A serious threat
What damage can spyware cause?
How do computers get infected with spyware?
How do I known if my computer has spyware?
Is spyware legal?
Who benefits from spyware?

How do Computers Get Infected with Spyware?

Nobody voluntary installs spyware on their computer. For this reason spyware authors use various deceptive methods to infect computers by stealth. Their three main strategies are:

Piggybacking

There are many valid reasons to download free software over the Internet. You may wish to install a plug-in in order to view a movie, use a file sharing program or make use of a 'web accelerator' to speed up your Internet connectivity. But keep in mind that spyware is often secretly bundled and installed with legitimate free software, including many of the most popular programs on the Internet. And although the bundled software may be mentioned in the End User License Agreement ( EULA), often these documents are intentionally difficult to read.

For example, the EULA for Kazaa, which was for a time the world's most popular file sharing program, had 56 onscreen pages! Millions of copies were downloaded before users found out that buried in those 56 pages was a brief clause stating that along with Kazaa the user also approved of the installation of a spyware program.

Sneaky pop-ups

Spyware distributors often dispense with the dubious formality of a bogus EULA altogether, choosing instead to employ blatant trickery to induce users to install their programs. One of the most popular forms of such trickery is the use of misleading pop-up or ActiveX boxes. These phony pop-up boxes take two forms:

  • Phony Dialog Boxes – Designed to look similar to the legitimate ActiveX Windows Error Messages your computer displays, these dialog boxes are not what they seem. When clicked, they install unwanted spyware.
  • Bogus Pop-up Ads – These pop-up ads typically offer you the choice of accepting or declining some new product or service. The only catch is that, regardless of whether you click Yes or No, spyware will be installed on your computer.

Drive-by downloads

Some web pages are like booby-traps, just waiting for an unsuspecting passerby. When you arrive on such a page, you need not even click anywhere for one or more spyware programs to be forcibly installed on your computer. There are many such 'traps' online. For example, one strategy is to load up spyware on web pages with addresses that are slight misspellings of popular sites. Alternately, some pages fool search engines with keywords that appear to indicate useful content, but which are little more than bait.

>> How do I know if my computer has spyware?

 

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