Spyware - Know Your Enemy

Spyware is a term that has become quite common to hear.

The term spyware refers to a broad category of malicious software designed to intercept or take partial control of a computer's operation without the “known” consent of that machine's owner or user. Spyware is as a term is being used quite loosely and includes a number of different programs. The thing they all have in common as spyware, is that they monitor the computer and/or user and share information with a third party. With or without the consent of the computer’s owner.

Semi spyware has become widely used and they manifest themselves as software, plugins or help files to other programs you want or need, and if you accept their policies and term of usage, you also accept the fact that these semi spyware programs will be installed and used.

They are normally not directly malicious as the secret spyware, but they do send out information from your computer to a third party. Most commonly some kind of habit tracing or statistics of surfing or similar. In most cases the information is completely anonymous and do not pose any kind of threat to you as an individual.

Spyware – a virus or not?

Spyware differs from viruses and worms in that it does not usually self-replicate. Like many recent viruses, however, spyware – by design – exploits infected computers for commercial gain.

Typical tactics furthering this goal include delivery of unsolicited pop-up advertisements; theft of personal information (including financial information such as credit card numbers); monitoring of Web-browsing activity for marketing purposes; or routing of HTTP requests to advertising sites.

These things are very hard to keep track of and know if a spyware is alive in your computer or if pop ups and other changes in your surfing programs behaviour should occur.

The only reliable way to know if an evil spyware is living and thriving inside your computer, is to install and use a good spyware removal program.

How does spyware infect?

Spyware does not spread like a computer virus or worm. Instead, spyware installs on your computer through deception or exploitation of software vulnerabilities.

Spyware Trojan horse!

A Trojan horse, by definition, smuggles in something dangerous in the guise of something desirable. So spyware often hide as an add on to some other program you really want.

Bundled Spyware

Spyware can also come bundled with shareware or other downloadable software, as well as music CDs. The user downloads a program (for instance, a music program or a file-trading utility) and installs it, and the installer additionally installs the spyware. Although the desirable software itself may do no harm, the bundled spyware does.

Manipulating Security Features

Another way of distributing spyware involves tricking users by manipulating security features designed to prevent unwanted installations. Internet browsers like Internet Explorer for example are easy targets t this method. Everybody has them and use them online almost daily. The way you protect yourself against this, is to always keep your operating system up to date when it comes to security updates.

Use Microsoft Update regularly (and often).

Examples of Spyware

As with computer viruses, researchers give names to spyware programs which frequently do not relate to any names that the spyware-writers use. Researchers may group programs into "families" based not on shared program code, but on common behaviours, or by "following the money" or apparent financial or business connections.

For instance, a number of the spyware programs distributed by Claria are collectively known as "Gator". Likewise, programs which are frequently installed together may be described as parts of the same spyware package, even if they function separately.

It is also important to know that different anti spyware program creators and big antivirus software creators may have different names for the save spyware. This can cause you to believe that you have 2 or more spyware products installed when you actually only have one, but mentioned with different names.

* CoolWebSearch, a group of programs, installs through the exploitation of Internet Explorer vulnerabilities. The programs direct traffic to advertisements on Web sites including coolwebsearch. To make this happen, they display pop-up ads, rewrite search engine results, and alter the infected computer's hosts file to direct DNS lookups to these sites.

* Internet Optimizer, also known as DyFuCa, redirects Internet Explorer error pages to advertising. When users follow a broken link or enter an erroneous URL, they see a page of advertisements. However, because password-protected Web sites (HTTP Basic authentication) use the same mechanism as HTTP errors, Internet Optimizer makes it impossible for the user to access password-protected sites.

* 180 Solutions transmits extensive information to advertisers about the Web sites which users visit. It also alters HTTP requests for affiliate advertisements linked from a Web site, so that the advertisements make unearned profit for the 180 Solutions company. It opens pop-up ads that cover over the Web sites of competing companies.

Toolbars from any other then the big players like Google, Yahoo, Msn and similar very often contains spyware to some degree today.

And even the big guns have started to incorporate “spyware like” statistics gather from their toolbars. They do tell you about them, and ask for your permission to install or active these routines. But they often do it in such a convoluted way, no one actually understand it.

So start out the day by cleaning your computer and then working. Make sure you have a restful safe day, download, scan and clean your computer from any spyware today …

By: Kenth Nasstrom -

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Free Virus Protection Is Great If You Are Broke

Because new viruses are created constantly, virus protection is never guaranteed, but an updated paid or free virus protection software is preferred as you will be protected from new viruses discovered by the manufacturer of the virus protection software you use.

Free virus protection software are often very good, but you should keep away from the scams. To understand why you need a paid or free virus protection, it would be better if you know what a virus is, and how it works. The best way to learn that is actually to be infected by one. We are not going to learn you how to get infected, instead how you best avoid that to happen.

You could be infected right now, totally unaware of it. An email with an virus attachment could also land in your mailbox, and when you open this attachment your computer will be infected. Sooner or later, you'll receive an email like this. If you have either a paid or a free virus protection, this email should be cleaned, quarantined or deleted. If you don't have any protection, you might be in serious trouble.

A virus could be created to do numerous of different things to harm your system. It is a piece of code with the ability to duplicate itself over and over again. A computer virus could for instance cause your telephone bill to show charges for calls you haven't made, and you could be absolutely sure that you did not make those calls, but the charges still appear on your phone bill. What we are talking about here is a so-called "Dialer" -virus. These works with dial-up connections.

Other viruses are made to erase your system files, and the result is a total shutdown of your entire computer system. Viruses could practically do anything they want to. Which intentions the different viruses have, is solely determined by their creators.

So, how do we protect ourselves and our computers against these malicious threats? Well, it has become an endless job to keep systems protected and updated to shield them from the latest threats. No virus protection software, free or paid, knows every virus out there, and there are a large variety of products when it comes to numbers of known virus signatures, and its ability to find and remove the threats.

Many of the largest virus protection manufacturers are known for having a large signature database, but unfortunately it seems that they are not always the best ones to remove the viruses. What I personally value most when it comes to both paid and free virus protection software, is the software's ability to find viruses and destroy them, but also that it runs on little system resources. This way you could still run a virus check, and continue to use the computer as you did.

I will recommend you one piece of free virus protection software that you can test for yourself. It is an open source project started to make private users contribute to the development of this software. It runs on little resources, has a good signature database, and best of all, it's free.

By: FreePcAssistance

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A Spyware Primer

Spyware is simply software that is generally installed without the computer users permission. After installation, it begins to obtain data and information regarding the users browsing habits and often times will also monitor and track other forms of personal data. The term spyware has recently mutated into a broader term referring to any type of software that is operating on a computer without the users consent to the benefit of an unauthorized third party.

Let us look at some functions that spyware performs without user authorization. Spyware can add affiliate links to shopping portals and thus capture commissions whenever purchases are made by the user. It can monitor internet activity and dictate future email and spam to the user. It can install other third party applications. It can hijack the user browser and add new homepages, icons and favorite links. And probably the most obvious affect of spyware is a very sluggish PC.

Microsoft Windows along with the Internet Explorer browser have been the primary targets of spyware, simply because they cater to the vast majority of users and are the software of choice. Using another operating system or browser may assist in reducing the risk of spyware, but only because it is less common and not because it is more secure. Unfortunately, downloading applications from the internet is the by far the most notable method of infection.

If you are becoming swamped with unwanted advertisements appearing while using your computer or other unwanted toolbars in your browser, it is most likely that you have some form of spyware infection. Kind in mind that probably the most of these come from pornographic and gambling sites, so you might want to consider steering clear of those sites and deleting any email you might receive from these type of sites. Many users are unaware of the incentives involved in spyware. Website owners can be paid as much as $0.50 for each install of an ActiveX control containing spyware, which can be very attractive to many undesirable sites.

After users have been taught some sensible precautions that can be easily taken when using the internet and about downloading software, the effects of spyware can be drastically reduced. It can actually be very straight forward to eliminate and remove spyware with the proper software. Remember that it is very important to combine effective anti-spyware tools with other anti-virus and Firewall applications for complete PC protection.

By: Charles Cox

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Computer Virus

Who can forget the way the world was frozen with the threat of the "Millennium Bug"? While people around the globe should have been counting down to a phenomenal celebration, we were too busy preparing for certain doom and gloom beset by a computer virus. Of course, the clock struck twelve on January 1, 2000 and a new millennium quietly began, bug-free.

Those unfortunate enough to have had to deal with a computer virus knows all too well the damage that can be done. From taking on annoying quirks, to erasing files, to completely obliterating computers or entire systems, the powerful effect of a computer virus is nothing to sneeze at. Computer viruses pose real threats that can be minimal, or can cause worldwide destruction.

In computer security technology circles, the definition of a computer virus is a "self-replicating program that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents". A computer virus behaves in a manner similar to a biological virus, which spreads by inserting itself into living cells.

Extending the analogy, the insertion of a computer virus into a program is termed as an "infection" and the infected file (or executable code that is not part of a file) is called a "host". Viruses are one of several types of malicious software, also known as "malware". The term "virus" is often extended to refer to worms, Trojan horses and other sorts of malware. These are less common than they used to be, however, so the inclusion of these types of malware can be confusing to computer users. This confusion can have serious implications, as it can lead to a focus on preventing one genre of malware over another, potentially leaving computers vulnerable to future damage. The basic rule holds that computer viruses can only damage software, not hardware.

Viruses have targeted in the following types of hosts:

* Boot sectors of floppy disks; hard disk partitions.

* Master boot record of a hard disk.

* Binary executable files (.COM-files and .EXE-files in MS-DOS; portable executable files in Microsoft Windows; ELF files in Linux).

* General-purpose script files (batch files in MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows; shell script files on Unix-like platforms).

* Application-specific script files (Telix scripts).

* Documents containing macros (Microsoft Word documents).

A computer virus by nature is destructive, but others are created solely for the annoyance factor. Some viruses pester computer users with a delayed payload, also known as a "bomb". For example, a bomb virus might display a message on a specific day, or wait until it has infected a certain number of hosts. A time bomb occurs on a particular date or time, and a logic bomb occurs when the computer user takes an action that triggers the bomb. However, the predominant negative effect of viruses continues to be their uncontrolled self-reproduction, which wastes or overwhelms computer resources.

To hinder the continuous spread of computer viruses, programmers have created anti-virus software. However, a fast infector can infect every potential host file that it’s able to access. This presents a special problem to anti-virus software. A virus scanner will perform a system-wide scan, accessing every potential host file on the computer. If the virus scanner fails to notice that a virus exists in the computer’s memory, the virus can "piggy-back" on the virus scanner, and infect every file that is scanned. Fast infectors rely on their incredible spreading rate. To combat the problem, certain anti-virus software programs, like the well-known Spyware, are expanding to cover worms and other threats.

Like the potential devastation of the Millennium Bug in 2000, computer viruses continue to present a real threat to single users and corporate networks alike.

By: Lisa Moore

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