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What's Hiding in Your Computer?

By Ian Sumter
Posted Sunday, September 5, 2004

Stories of computer viruses and hackers always seem to make the news - and rightly so. Everyone needs to be aware of these destructive and costly invasions into our PCs. And fairly enough, these activities have been outlawed.

But did you know that less well publicised and, at this time, perfectly legal foreign bodies may be infecting your computer right now?

These devices are called adware and spyware.

They are installed in your computer without your knowledge or consent, and are used by many internet companies to monitor your browsing and internet usage habits.

You most commonly attract spyware or adware when downloading music or other generally available files from file sharing services, or even when clicking on a simple ad.

However, it is not just a question of principle at issue here - that this software has been installed on your PC without consent, or that private information about your browsing activity is available to a range of companies that we do not know about. Though this is bad enough to be concerned and annoyed at their presence.

There are also practical problems and annoyances associated with adware and spyware.

Have you ever downloaded files from a shared service like Kazaa and soon after had your computer screen covered in several pop-ups - often for products and service of poor taste or obscenity, and certainly those you had little interest in purchasing? Has your computer also slowed down, so that even the simplest operations cannot be performed?

If any of these symptoms have appeared on your PC, then as likely as not, it has been infected with the spyware or adware.

That's the main effect of these intrusive software packages. The spyware or adware is a marketing device which online sellers use with the aim of getting further sales.

By showering your computer with pop-ups, they hope to persuade you to buy more products - which may in turn have further adware attachments. As online marketing is frequently seen as a numbers or statistics game, these companies think that the more pop-ups and ads are sent out, the more money they will make.

And annoyingly, like spam mail, the tactic works - and so companies continue to use the adware and spyware.

The simplest way to avoid spyware or adware is not to use the shared service files. But I personally don't want to give up using a valuable internet resource because of someone else's invasive computer software.

Besides, it may even be possible to become infected by only clicking on a seemingly harmless banner ad.

No one minds being informed of valuable products and services in an unobtrusive way - such as through opt in lists. But when these products are thrust onto the screen in a overload of pop-ups the issue has clearly got out of hand. When my own computer became infected some 30-40 pop-ups appeared in the space of a few minutes - virtually disabling the PC.

There are also a couple of useful sites which will scan your computer for free to identify and Adware or Spyware - these are Spyware Nuker and No Adware.

It may be worth contacting online discussion groups or emailing your service provider about the issue. After all, this problem is just as pervasive as spam, and just as annoying. So it should be taken just as seriously.

About the Author and are just 2 of the many computer security and privacy sites featured in Secret Websites for Online Profits. Available at ( Contact


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