How Does Spyware and Adware Spread?

How Does Spyware and Adware Spread?

One of the most important things for you to understand is just how spyware spreads.  How does it get from its source to your computer?


By understanding this fact, you’ll know how to better protect yourself from future invasion.


It’s Not A Virus


One thing to know is that spyware and adware are not viruses and don’t spread in the same way as a virus would.  With a virus, the infected computer system is used to spread the virus from one system to the next.  It is actively looking for the next victim.  Spyware gets into your system by deception.  In most cases, you download it to your computer.


You’ve Installed It


Most commonly, spyware enters the computer when the computer user installs it.  Of course, you wouldn’t know that you are doing that.  What happens is quite a bit more worrisome.


You visit a website and find a piece of software that you would like to have.  You download it.  Little did you know that the software that you just downloaded had spyware piggybacked onto it and now you’ve got both the desirable software and the spyware lurking on your computer.  You may not even know it’s there for months!


Or, you may have the spyware trick you into downloading it.  In this case, you may be asked to perform an operation that is “required” to complete the download.  When you do, you are actually downloading the spyware or adware onto your computer.


Some of the newest versions of this software are even more devastating because they promise to protect your computer.  You may download a program and it offers security software with its download.  You download it thinking it’s stopping spyware when in fact it is doing the opposite.  It’s actually the spyware itself.


In some cases, the spyware gets onto your computer by pretending to offer you a useful service or tool.   For example, a common type of spyware “giveaway” is a web accelerator, promising to speed up your interactions online, making surfing the net faster.  It’s not going to do this for you at all.


Some of these types of programs have even been targeted at children.  They may offer a “friend” that gets to monitor what your child does online, keeping them safe and giving them the ability to do things online without your watchful eye.


The problem is he may also be a spyware tool that will target ads directly at your child during those sessions with him.




Another way that spyware gets into the computer is through shareware.  It often comes bundled with this type of product.  One type of this program would be file trading utilities.  When you purchase and install the program you want, you also download the spyware.


Some companies that have the need and potential benefits from spyware and adware even have worked with the shareware providers in paying them to incorporate the spyware into the software that you are likely to download and use.


More commonly, shareware gets the spyware bundled into it by the spyware companies.  In these cases, the shareware providers don’t know that it is there.




You’ve Changed Security Features


Unfortunately, there are other ways that spyware and adware can get into your computer.  For example, it may be in the form of altering your security features.  It may even prompt you to do this without realizing what you are doing.
Internet Explorer’s web browser offers built in notifications to the user of when something is trying to download onto your computer or, when something is making a change to your system.  But, these can be manipulated with the simple click of a link on a website.


Consider the annoying pop up ad.  A pop up ad is one that literally pops up when you are using your computer.  Usually they happen when you visit websites.  In most cases, just by closing the ad, you are done.  But, have you ever fallen for those ads that look very much like Windows security boxes?


These can actually be triggers for spyware to be downloaded.  They look an awful lot like a standard dialog box providing you with information.  You click on them, they change your security features and within a few minutes, you’ve got spyware to deal with.  That’s anything but something you want to have happen.


One such dialog box offers to “optimize your internet access.”  Even if you hit the “No” button, you’ve still clicked on the ad, which is enough to push it to download.


Security holes in your system can be another way that spyware gets in.  Here, they could be in your webs browser or the holes could be lurking in a program you are using.  If you are browsing the web and happen to a location where spyware software like this is lurking, it can actually attack these holes in your system and force the computer to download the software.  This is often called a drive by download.


This can happen with both Internet Explorer and with Microsoft Java runtime where security risks lie.  Those that have created this type of spyware software have an extensive knowledge of anti virus software and firewall software.


Through A Virus?


While spyware is much different than a virus, spyware can be the actual virus’s intention.  For example, if a virus like this gets onto your computer it may install tons of spyware at one time to your computer.


This was the case with one type of virus known as W32.spybot.worm.  It used pornographic information to infect the user’s system and challenged all types of ads because of it.


These are the most common methods in which spyware can get into your computer.  Sometimes, you, the computer user are the one to make the decision to download it by downloading another program.  Other times, it pushes its way into your computer.
Yet, even as dangerous as these things can be, the fact is that you can keep using the internet and using the downloads you find there.


You just have to learn how to spot potential problems and how to avoid unwanted extra programs.  In effect, you need to also monitor your computer’s needs even if you haven’t downloaded a thing.


In the coming chapters, we’ll discuss the actual methods of removal.  Then, we’ll come back to learning to protect yourself against downloads that may contain spyware or adware in them.

How Does Spyware and Adware Spread?


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