Spyware Programs: How do they get there?
Spyware programs are sly culprits that install themselves on a user's computer without his or her consent. Most spyware software comes 'bundled' with another program. These programs, known as 'Trojan horses,' are valid downloads that offer a tempting deal to users in order to convince them to download it in the first place. Popular file sharing programs such as AudioGalaxy, Grokster, iMesh, Kazaa and Morpheus often may or may not include spyware or adware. These programs are free in order to attract the widest possible audience of users, and thus the greatest range of targets.
Spyware programs that are bundled with Trojan horses are called 'stalking horses,' and although they may come as an add-on, the option to actually physically choose it is rarely presented to the user. Sometimes the spyware program is mentioned in the small print of the user agreement, but who reads the download agreement? Most people just check the box and then move on; since program designers rely on readers not reading the user agreement, the spyware is downloaded.
Another way that spyware programs install themselves on your computer is by sneaking in through holes, or flaws, in your Internet browser. This instance was common with Internet Explorer, which has since beefed up its security measures.
A third way that spyware programs get onto your computer is through something called a 'drive-by download.' This is when the program simply installs itself onto your PC without any warning. Sometimes, although rarely, it includes a prompt such as a pop-up box that asks, "Do you accept this download?" without any action on the part of the user to seek out a download in the first place.
It is also possible to contract a spyware program through a virus or an infected e-mail, although this is a rare situation. Browser hijackers can be responsible for installing spyware. By rerouting your Internet searches and homepage, these hijackers blend into your computer system, opening the door for spyware.
Cookies often come up in discussion about information tracking. These tiny bits of software are used by your PC to store information about your Internet habits. Cookies make it possible for Web sites to recognize you as a frequent user, but they also record your Internet browsing. When cookies are used innocently, say by your PC to monitor any sites you frequently visit, they make themselves known with a pop-up box which informs the reader that a cookie may be installed.