Adware, Spyware and Computer Viruses Explained

The computer virus is almost as old as the personal computer. What started off as a joke between software engineers has evolved into an uncontrollable beast. In the mid 1990's computer viruses ran wild and held even big organizations like Yahoo in it's claws. The thrill and challenge for software engineers to "beat" antivirus software drove them to create some pretty nasty software.

Fortunately the law intervened and along with anti-virus software the threat posed by computer viruses was soon under control. However, today's computer threats span much further than mere viruses. The 2 big culprits are Adware and Spyware and in many ways they are more dangerous that computer viruses.

While most people use the term computer virus to loosely define all software threats, it's not entire correct. Malware is probably a more accurate definition. Maware basically comes from MALicious SoftWARE - software that was created with the main purpose of destroying, harming or stealing.

Virusses, adware and spyware can all be defined as malicious software. Their sole intention is to either get some sort of data from your computer or to attack some aspect of your computer's operating system.

Malicious threats can be classified into 3 main areas: viruses, adware and spyware. They are all different yet most people confuse them to be the same thing.

- The Common Computer Virus
Everybody is well aware of computer viruses. While most people still use the term virus loosely for every kind of malicious infection. The fact of the matter is that computer viruses aren't as big a threat anymore. Most Anti-virus software today will give you plenty of protection. There are still a lot of viruses out there - especially on email attachments and dodgy websites, but for the most part the creators of these viruses moved on to something more important - making money. This is where adware and spyware applications comes in.

- Adware
Adware started out as legitimate software installations that often came with purchased applications. The adware software was designed as a way to communicate with the users and to gather data to help improve the software or fix bugs. Unfortunately this "good intention" became twisted and adware today is just completely abusing this concept.

Without you knowing it, you probably agreed to have that adware installed on your computer. The agreement is usually hidden in some dense Terms and Conditions document that no one ever reads. Most free software these days come with the hidden agenda of Adware and by deploying advertising on your computer they can make a lot of money.

Adware has become quite sophisticated and can gather a lot of your personal information that they can use to advertise to you. Virtually all pop-ups are adware. It can be extremely annoying, slow your computer down and getting rid of them can be a real nightmare - even with adware remover software.

- Spyware
Spyware is sneaky. It's clever and operates under stealth. It can install itself on your computer without your knowledge or your consent. While Adware is mainly designed to advertise to you, Spyware wants to steal from you.

By Deon Du Plessis

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