Cybernaut 

21 threats and a joke

In this week’s Cybernaut – 21 serious computer threats to consider and the one joke that everyone can agree on

Eye on Spyware

Contrary to what you might think, spyware is not a tuxedo or a two-way video wristwatch communicator with a built-in laser cutter.

While most people are familiar with computer hacking and viruses – at least enough to know that they exist and are generally bad things – spyware is seldom talked about when computer security is discussed.

It is a subcategory of a sneaky kind of software programs that are clandestinely taking up residence without your knowledge on your computer. Other program variations include adware, stealware and scumware.

Adware generally pops up ads when you are surfing the net, but few people realize that it exists on their computer because they assume that the ads were put there by the Web sites they are visiting.

When you click on a link from one site to another, stealware basically claims credit for the referral for a site you didn’t even link from. Because a lot of advertising revenue is channelled to sites based on referrals, sites are stealing revenue from one another – and without that revenue, a lot of small and independent sites might have to shut down.

Scumware alters the links on a Web page, redirecting users to porn, gambling and other e-commerce sites. You could click on a link to a site or story about one thing, and find yourself somewhere completely different. A common assumption is that the original Web site is guilty, but that isn’t always the case.

Spyware is a little more dangerous than any of its dirty cousins because it collects and reports information on a computer users’ behaviour – sometimes right down to your keystrokes.

According to a recent article in Time magazine, spyware is becoming a huge problem with more than a thousand variations in use.

How do you pick up spyware?

You download some of them when you download other programs from the Web. File sharing programs are famous for it.

You can also pick up spyware by accepting cookies through the Internet that allow you to access sites without the usual member name and password thing.

If you’re a PC user and want to find out if you have any spies in your system, Lavasoft at www.lavasoftusa.com and download a program called Ad-Aware. It’s free and effective, although there are now spyware programs out there that can turn it off.

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