Leverage the Power of Free E-Mail: Some Web-based e-mail systems like Google's Gmail and Yahoo's Yahoo Mail allow you to configure your client-side computer software to retrieve messages from your Web
Spyware is software or hardware installed on a computer without the user's knowledge which gathers information about that user for later retrieval by whomever controls the spyware. Spyware can be broken down into two different categories, surveillance spyware and advertising spyware.
Advertising spyware is software that is installed alongside other software or via activex controls on the internet, often without the user's knowledge, or without full disclosure that it will be used for gathering personal information and/or showing the user ads. Advertising spyware logs information about the user, possibly including passwords, email addresses, web browsing history, online buying habits, the computer's hardware and software configuration, the name, age, sex, etc of the user.
As with spam, advertising spyware uses the CPU, RAM, and resources of the user's computer, making the user pay for the costs associated with operating it. It then makes use of the user's bandwidth to connect to the internet and upload whatever personal information it has gathered, and to download advertisements which it will present to the user, either by way of pop up windows, or with the ad banners of ad-supported software. All of this can be considered theft in the cases of advertising spyware that installs without disclosure. My objection to spyware is not just the loss of privacy. That's bad enough. What are also repulsive are the methods these companies use to present users with their advertisements. They spawn pop up and pop under ads, latch onto the Internet Explorer browser like leeches to force the start and search pages to their "partner" sites, make advertisements out of plain text on web sites where they have no arrangement with the author of the content.
Often these advertisements are pornographic in nature and make no allowance for underage users who may be using the computer.
EarthLink's SpyAudit program, which scanned 1,062,756 PCs, found 29.5 million instances of spyware, an average of nearly 28 spyware items per computer.
How does this happen without your knowledge? Examples like those above are usually the work of a trojan, a small program that can be unknowingly installed on a computer and then accessed by another computer over the Internet. Together with programs called spyware, adware and viruses, trojans are a part of a group collectively known as "malware" or "pestware." While the majority of such programs are pests and nothing more, they have the potential to be quite nasty.
Like the horse of old, a trojan carries with it an unexpected surprise. Trojans do not replicate like a virus, but they do leave behind a program that can be contacted by another computer. From there, they can do just about anything. While it's possible a trojan can be used to take control of a computer, the most common trojans are dialer programs. Dialers are used without your knowledge to make international or premium calls (900-type numbers) from your PC. That's more than an annoyance; it can get expensive.
Spyware: Who's Watching Your Online Moves? Spyware programs range from annoying to the dangerous, including keyboard loggers and screen capture applications that can steal passwords and other sensitive information. The programs are sometimes bundled in with shareware or freeware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. Often times they claim to be helpful utilities that also carry a more sinister side.
Adware: Caught in a Marketing Nightmare Adware is software that displays advertisements to computer users. Some of the most strict definitions of adware include applications that are sponsored for their free use. One of the most popular examples is WeatherBug, which offers a free version of weather software and comes wrapped in a skin that displays advertising. While older versions of WeatherBug had rather significant privacy issues, newer versions are pretty straight forward: you see the ad, but you get the weather. Is this adware? In the most strict sense, many people say it is. But to some computer users, the tradeoff seems fair. Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and AOL's Instant Messenger are among other software programs and services that display ads to their users in exchange for free usage. Many of these programs off advertising-free versions for a price.
More infamous among adware watchers is Gator, which now goes by the name Claria Corp. Gator was controversial from the start. It began in 1998 offering e-wallet software. But it reports your Web surfing habits back to its parent company, which then sends you advertisements targeted according to your data. The vast majority of people consider it a pest, especially because the software is often bundled with other, more useful software. As annoying as it is, Gator is not very malicious
Viruses: Contagious Pests For all the publicity viruses have gotten, they remain a serious threat. While viruses can potentially destroy a computer's data, most of the widespread viruses have leaned more toward annoyance. The most famous are e-mail viruses that replicate and spread using e-mail addresses stored on a computer. They still cost computer users and their employers hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
The MS Blaster worm that caused havoc in the summer of 2003 exploited a vulnerability in the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) function of the Windows operating system. Anyone who did not install a patch issued by Microsoft was vulnerable, marking a new era in virus prevention for many Internet users. No longer was using care with e-mail attachments enough to keep you safe.
Your Computer Has a Mind of Its Own Spyware, trojans and other pests contact other computers, and each pest is program of its own, therefore they use system resources such as CPU cycles, memory and an Internet connection.
Slow Computer There are several reasons your computer may be running slow, but if you use it on a regular basis, then you're familiar with its noises, hang-ups and how it reacts. Older computers tend to run slower. Some applications cause computers to run slower. Computers are machines, they do not have moods. A sudden change in how your computer is running could be a sign of spyware or adware.