Spyware and Adware
Types of spyware and adware
There are a number of different types of spyware and adware. This software is referred to as 'malware,' which stands for 'malicious software.' These programs install themselves on your computer without your knowledge or consent, and can cause problems ranging from being bombarded with annoying ads to severe complications and information theft.
- Adware networks pay Web sites and computer programmers to let them advertise on their sites, usually with 'pop-up' ads. The networks tend to target game programs and music and video players; unsuspecting users then download the ads along with the program or Web site. The adware network places a cookie on your computer each time its ad comes up. These cookies allow the networks to record your activity on the Internet; every time you connect to one of their sites, they scan the cookies. Some adware networks include: DoubleClick, GAIN and Radiate.
- Backdoor Santas are similar to adware networks in how they record data, but they are considered 'stand-alone programs.' Backdoor Santas are valid programs (such as BonziBuddy, Comet Cursor, eWallet and Hotbar) that users download off the Internet. But as the program runs, it collects information on your Internet and hardware use, and records this data for their servers.
- Cookies are small pieces of software that record information about a user on his or her PC. Cookies allow Web sites you frequent to recognize you. Cookies used 'innocently' will alert the user to their presence, while those used in spyware and adware will not.
- Trojan horses are extremely popular programs that can be downloaded off the Internet for free. They frequently offer file sharing, such as MP3s and audio files. AudioGalaxy, Grokster, iMesh, Kazaa and Morpehus are all Trojan horses. These types of software are linked to adware networks, and always contain a couple of Stalking Horses (see below). Sometimes you have to install the spyware software to make the program run - this is included in the small print of the familiar 'user agreement' that has to be accepted in order to start the download.
- Stalking horses are spyware software that is bundled, or included, in a popular download program known as a 'Trojan horse.' Sometimes, though rarely, they come as an 'add-on' option. Cydoor, Delfin, Onflow, TopText and Webhancer are all stalking horses. Stalking horses help the adware networks work on your computer as they collect information on your user habits.