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What do you call it-- Spyware, Adware or Malware?

by Wayne Porter

There are a lot of differing opinions on what the definitions of Spyware, Adware and Malware should be. In order to assist new users we have provided brief definitions based on our own perspective and experiences in anti-spyware development.

Adware: Adware can do a number of things from profile your online surfing and spending habits to popping up annoying ad windows as you surf. In some cases Adware has been bundled (i.e. peer-to-peer file swapping products) with other software without the user's knowledge or slipped in the fine print of a EULA (End User License Agreement).

Not all Adware is bad, but often users are annoyed by adware's intrusive behavior. Keep in mind that by removing Adware sometimes the program it came bundled with for free may stop functioning. We feel this is a small price to pay for your privacy.

Spyware: Spyware is far more dangerous than Adware because it can record your keystrokes, history, passwords, and other private information. Spyware is often sold as a spouse monitor, child monitor, a surveillance tool or simply as spyware. Spyware is also known as: snoopware, PC surveillance, key logger, system recorders, Parental control software, PC recorder, Detective software and Internet monitoring software.

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Spyware is any software that covertly gathers user information and activity without the users knowledge. Spy software can record your keystrokes as you type them, passwords, credit card numbers, sensitive information, where you surf, chat logs, and can even take random screenshots of your activity. Basically whatever you do on the computer is completely viewable by the spy. You do not have to be connected to the Internet to be spied upon.

Malware: Malware is slang for malicious software. Malware is software designed specifically to disrupt a computer system. For example, a trojan horse or a virus could be classified as Malware. Some advertising software can be malicious in that it can try to re-install itself after you remove it.

For the purpose of simplicity Malware is software specifically engineered to damage your machine or interrupt the normal computing environment.

Reader Note: A "EULA" or End User License Agreement is the agreement you accept when you click "OK" or "Continue" when you are installing software. Many users may recall it as the "very long pages of legalese they never bother to read when installing the said software product".

It is important to actually train yourself to read this agreement before you install software. No matter how boring or tedious the EULA, you should be able to see the software maker's intent BEFORE you install the software. If you have questions about the EULA- e-mail the company and ask for clarification.

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