|If someone came into your house without your consent, hid himself and observed you day and night, kept a note of the vitals in your house how would you like it? Well the reply is but obvious “ I would thrash the daylights out of him.”. Well probably you can do this, if you are able to see this, but when you live in a virtual world and are attacked by such intruders, then there is very little that you can do about this. This situation in the virtual world is termed as Spyware. Technically it is a program that gets embedded in your system, and then keeps a track of that you do using your system.
Spyware for many is no different than a virus, but from the technical point of view, it is not so. Whereas a Virus is a piece of redundant code, that is aiming to crash your system, and further travel to all those systems connected to yours thus crashing an entire network, Spyware also, though unsolicited, is not aimed at crashing of a system, rather, it is there to serve the purpose of advertising, to steal your personal information from user-ids to passwords to financial information. Apart from these, it is also one proxy way to direct traffic to certain websites, to create clicks for various sites, to generate a false count etc. Ad ware is that form of spyware which is aimed at advertising as the name suggests, Malware, is the malicious spy ware and more worse is the Stealware spyware where funds are diverted from a legitimate source to a spyware vendor
Turning back the pages into way behind in 1995, the gravity of Spyware was understood even at that time. And this was the time when this term started to gain popularity. And with time, Spyware today is one of the most vital threats to the security of a system.
Commonly, it is observed that Windows Operating System is the one that is often hit, and Internet Explorer has more than often been a vulnerable victim to such attacks.
But how do we know that we are attacked by spy ware. Well there are a couple of very evident events that take place :-
- Pop up windows pop out of nowhere.
- System becomes extremely slow.
- You see some unwanted programs installed.
- Your browser toolbar has got some unwanted tool buttons that just came up on their own (Actually they don’t come up on their own, but you have installed them by getting conned by spy ware)
- You see that your homepage has been set to some advertising web page
So, there you are, when you tick a yes to at least one, you definitely have a high risk of being infected by spyware. But how did this thing ever get into your computer desktop???? Again, the reasons being any of the following :-
- You have clicked on a pop up window, and suddenly you see another set of windows opening up, and to do away with all this, you may have clicked a masqueraded button.
- You found bonzi buddy or gator too cute and installed them, and then landed with every problem on earth.
- While you download various stuff from sites like Shareware etc, you downloaded spy ware too, which came free with this.
Records have said that two thirds of the systems that go online are infected with this. To prevent this, one needs to be equipped with anti spyware programs. Microsoft Anti-spyware, AVG Anti spyware etc are just few of the names. Anti Spy ware programs fall into two categories, one which identifies and removes the spyware and the other that prevents installation of spy ware into your system. Also, preventing of pop up windows and setting your filter security to a high level does help.
Spy ware is definitely a bitter experience for regular net surfers, but talking about legality, law does not permit spying. In US the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is there to fight for the cause and in the UK, the Computer Misuse Act meets the same purpose. But like every coin has two sides, spy ware vendors defend themselves saying, their programs were never installed by conning someone. So long for the fights between right and wrong, but what really needs a thought is, Is someone stalking us?? And what can we do to prevent this.
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