Has your computer ever worked so slowly that you cannot sit still and keep your temper any more but switch the machine off? Spyware may be to blame.
The first recorded use of the term spyware occurred in 1994, referring to spying equipment such as tiny cameras. In early 2000, a scientist named Steve Gibson realized that advertising software had been installed on his system, and he suspected that the software was stealing his personal information. Since then, spyware has been defined as software applications were designed to monitor and report computer user activities remotely (WikiPedia).
It is estimated that spyware has been installed on over 85% of personal computers (Farrow, 2003). A recent survey by an Internet Service Provider found an average of 28 spyware items installed per computer (Thompson, 2003). A November 2004 study by AOL and the National Cyber-Security Alliance showed that, 80% of surveyed users' computers had some forms of spyware, with an average of 93 spyware components per computer. 89% of surveyed users with spyware reported that they did not know of its presence, and 95% reported that they had not given permission for the installation of the spyware (America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance, 2004). As a matter of fact, it is obvious that we are facing one of the most dangerous threats from the Internet and knowing how to prevent computers from being infected spyware is essential. This paper, with the purpose of providing computer users with basic knowledge of spyware, analyses different aspects of spyware, including the definition, ways to infects computers, effects and solutions to get rid of it.
2. Definition of Spyware
There are many ways to define what spyware is. According to Susannah Fox (2005, p.2), Associate Director of Pew Internet & American Life Project, spyware is “a software that is placed secretly on a computer in order to track a user’s behaviour and report back to the central source”. Tjiss.net (www.tjiss.net) gives out an expanded definition of spyware, which is the class of “software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. Once installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and transmits that information in the background to someone else. Spyware can also gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords and credit card numbers”. Basically, we can understand spyware as a computer program, which can display advertisements or gather one’s information and send it back to this spyware designer.
In fact, many people mistake a spyware for a computer virus. A computer virus, however, is not really a program but a “piece of code designed to replicate itself as many times as possible, spreading from one host computer to any other computers connected to it” (Coustan, 1998). Furthermore, while virus is created to cause damages to computer operating systems, most kinds of spyware are designed for commercial purposes- advertising or gathering information.
3. The ways Spyware infects computer
Spyware usually gets on computers because of something the users do, like downloading free software, music, films or clicking on pop-up ads. Spyware can also use tricks to cheat user and affect their machines. The following are some general ways in which spyware uses to get on computers.
|Kinds of behavior |All Internet users |Internet users who report spyware|Internet users who do not report | | | | |spyware | |Download computer programs from the |39% |54%...