Spyware Explained

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What is spyware? We explain all.

There is a range of computer software that is referred to as spyware. But what is spyware? Without the prior consent of the owner or user, spyware is able to partially take control or disrupt a computer's operation. Although the term may suggest that this software is designed to monitor covertly the user's actions, it actually relates to software that sabotages the working of a computer in a way that benefits someone other than the user. Adware, badware, maleware, worms, trojans, junkware and downloaders are other terms for spyware.

What Can It Do?

This software is capable of gathering a great deal of information regarding a computer user, simply by watching. Spyware then sends this information over the internet. One form of this is toolbars that you download for your browser - they monitor every move, search and site you visit.

One of the more innocuous functions of this program is to record websites visited by a particular user and then send these details to an advertising agency. It can also initiate popup adverts. By contrast, the program can be used to gain access to credit card numbers and passwords as they are typed. The software can be considered harmless and annoying, or malevolent, depending on the purpose that it is being used for.

Software from many established companies now comes with some form of this program installed, which is usually used for advertisements. This is certainly not intended to be malicious, but it is a way to keep tabs on a user by watching and recording what they are using their computer for.

Unlike viruses and worms, this program is not usually able to duplicate itself. However, it is designed to take advantage of infected computers for the benefit of someone other than the legitimate user. This can be achieved through stealing personal information, sending unsolicited advertisements, steering HTTP requests to advertising sites or using knowledge of web browsing for targeted marketing.


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