Spyware and Adware

What are Spyware & Adware

Spyware is software that in general is surreptitiously installed on your computer. It covertly installs itself on your computer through vulnerabilities in the operating system and/or the web browser, or by piggybacking on other program installations. Frequently, the piggybacking is associated with so­called free downloads such as games, music, screen­savers, emoticons and peer­to­peer software. The general purposes of spyware is to steal personal information without your knowledge (e.g. username and passwords), monitor you computing habits (e.g. web sites visited), and vandalize you data.

Adware, much like spyware, is installed by stealthy means. Adware is financially supported malware, where displaying advertisements through annoying pop­ups is the most common format. These advertisements can range from innocuous cell phones to pornographic content. In addition to the pop­ups, some adware also collects computing habits like spyware which is transmitted to remote databases. Adware is known to alter system files, slow down your Internet connection and often impairs the processing power of your computer.

The distribution of spyware and adware has become far more deceptive recently. By burying consent for installing their programs in the End User License Agreements (EULA), distributors of these programs are claiming legitimized installations. If you do not read nor fully comprehend the EULA and privacy statements you agree to, you may be unknowingly allowing the spyware and adware to be installed with consent.

Common Symptoms of Spyware & Adware

  • Unusually slow or sluggish processing (including slow booting and web browsing)
  • Random advertising pop­ups
  • Computer takes longer to boot­up
  • Unusual system instability (including consistent system hangs and more computer crashes thanusual), or
  • Odd browser behavior such as:
  • Inability to browse web pages at all
  • Redirection to search sites you have never seen,
  • Gaining a toolbar you did not intentionally install
  • Having your default home page changed.
  • Web pages are automatically added to list of favorites
  • Pop­up advertising windows appear when the browser is not open or over Web pages that do not normally have pop­ups.
  • Difficulty logging into secure websites like MyMail/MyMail

Preventing Spyware & Adware

  1. Know what you are installingAs stated above, piggybacking is a common installation vector, as is consent through the EULA. Below are two examples of EULA that indicate the presence and installation of third party software.
thirdpartiesEULA
Example of “third party” software mentioned in an EULA
wildtangentEULA
Example of WildTangent (legitimized spyware) mention in EULA
  1. Make sure your computer has the latest operating system patches and security updates.
  2. Do not click on suspicious links.
  3. Ensure you have your Anti­Virus/Anti­Spyware/Anti­Adware software up to date
    (anti­virus and anti­spyware software are becoming merged).
  4. Increase the security setting for your browser to medium or high level.