Spywares and viruses are similar in their nature since both are unwelcome installations that will take place without the consent and knowledge of computer owners. However, what they do is totally different. Spywares are planted on a computer in order to keep track of what the owner is doing so that the information could be aggregated and passed on to a third party that will use it to target the owner of the infested computer with commercial pitches mostly in a form of pop-up advertising.
In the final outcome, there is no harm done except that it is a direct invasion of privacy that could get harmful if used inappropriately. Sensitive information such as credit card numbers, bank accounts, passwords for bank accounts, and emails the owner might be using are all accessible through the spyware software that could sit in the background, coming to life whenever the computer starts. The content of emails or any other sensitive documents could also be accessed, copied, and passed to a third party that can do anything he or she wants to do with it.
The end result is spyware software creates unprecedented access to anyone’s private or business computer and can make and break the owner at will. The existence of spyware software by itself makes everyone vulnerable to a big number of abuses, even if till date, in most cases, spyware software were used only to track the buying habit of users so that a tailor-made ad will be channeled to them directly, but the possibility of changing the nature of the tracking is out there, the reason why users are scared out of their senses.
Virus on the other hand is a harmful software that could be downloaded through email in a form of attachment – that is why most people have dread toward attachments – and it could do a lot of malicious things to a computer. One of their special characteristic is they are created to duplicate themselves so that they can infest a big number of computers in order to disrupt what they are doing.
Sometimes, it is possible to encounter or catch a virus by simply surfing the Internet and from visiting other sites that are already infected. The outcome in most cases is the computers infected will be unable to function normally and the effect is more pronounced on computers used for business purpose where whatever service is being rendered could be made unavailable for users, and the disruption could cost a lot of money to companies, and in some cases they could even lose customers.
The good news, however, is it is possible to keep all of them at bay to a good extent by using various software that are out in the marketplace to do the job. Some of them tackle only virus where either they protect the computer from being infected or they will hunt the virus down after it is planted and they will uninstall or remove it. It is not, nonetheless, a 100 percent guaranty even if it is better than surfing the Internet without the protection. The other handicap of the software is they have to be upgraded on a regular basis to up their capability to the complicated level of viruses that are unleashed on a regular basis by the big number of pranksters who have taken it as a way of life, and the sophistication is always on the rise.
The same procedure could also be applied to the spyware software where it could either be prevented from installing itself on a computer or once it is installed it could be hunted and rooted out even if some of them are known to be difficult to remove and could be get rid of only by installing the whole program again after deleting the whole content. If this procedure is the only resort using a backup system to save some of the essential documents, if not programs might be required.
Among viruses there are Trojans and worms, and Trojans are exactly like their name where their declared purpose and what they do is not the same. They could tell the user that they will serve a given useful purpose, but once they are installed they will resort to what their creator intended for them and in most cases they do not duplicate themselves like viruses. However, worms are, more or less, viruses that can replicate and attach themselves with various outgoing documents, and applications on the host computer.
When it comes to spyware there are several varieties to be aware of and one of them is “adware” whose sole purpose is to display pop-up advertisements, in most cases that are already implanted in the program according to the surfing habit of the users.
The other kind is “trackware” which has the capacity of tracking everything the user is doing on the Internet and that information could be used for targeting ads to the user that is if it is not used for any other damaging purpose like stealing credit card information, or bank account number, and passwords.
There is also what is known as a “tracker” and what it does is keep record of every keystroke in a special file, and send that file periodically to the hackers, which could enable them to do all sort of damage both on personal computers, and on those that are used for business with sensitive customer information. One of the major problems cited is when a computer is infected with all these barrages of spyware software that are executing numerous instructions in the background, they will definitely hamper the performance of any computer bringing it down to a crawling stage, and that is when users will find out that their system had been infected severely.
On top of all these, these kinds of software are known to do other things like hijacking affiliate payments by redirecting the click that is coming from the affiliate sites to the hacker’s site.
What this shows is the vulnerability level of surfing the Internet or doing business on the Internet is on the rise. Yet, there are products that are coming to the rescue of Internet users and some of them boast a 100 percent protection. Nevertheless, to get that out of their product regular updating is required, which does not come free in most cases. There are also freeware software out there that promise to do the job even if they might not be as good as those that are charging for it. For example Microsoft has its Antispyware, which can be downloaded for free until its beta form usage expires in December 2005, and in most cases it might become necessary to bundle two or three of them in order to remain safe from these destructive malwares.
Other known products to be aware of are Ad-Aware and Spybot-Search and Destroy, which are free to download. Among the well known commercial products Symantec, McAfee, and Sophos are known to be the best, and they bundle both anti-spyware and anti-virus products, even if they have to be updated regularly to be effective.
Precaution has to be taken when using these kinds of products because their claiming to be anit-spyware or anti-virus is not enough, as a good number of them had been spywares and viruses themselves, and that is why, at times, it is important to stick with the household-name products.
There are sources who say avoiding using Internet Explorer might help to keep these malwares at bay, yet even if there are few browsers out there, they might not be as good as IE, which is known to come up with security measures and patch-ups on a regular basis to make its usage safe. All in all, it is very important to become aware of products that are out there infecting computers, and passing out information to a third-party hackers who are in a position to use them for whatever purpose they choose to.