Your computer may be watching you !
If you download free software from the Net — especially
the ragingly popular music-sharing programs and Web games — chances
are you've also gotten more than you've bargained for. Freeloading
programs can quietly piggyback onto your PC during the download
process and then do things surreptitiously once they get
The software — dubbed adware, stealthware and spyware — can
track your surfing habits, use your Net connection to report
back to a home base and deliver targeted ads to you. It also
can collect your personal information and store it in databases.
Companies that allow adware to tack onto their downloads
say they do so because that's the only way they can offer
their software for free; adware companies pay to have their
Many people who download free software understand that the
price they pay is sharing private information and getting
ads. But critics charge that some companies don't properly
Once installed, adware can do almost anything. Most of the
time, it tracks which sites are visited and delivers targeted
ads, for which companies generally pay more. For example,
if you're searching for baby names and diapers, the software
may deliver a minivan ad to you.
The end result? When you download that new free game, if
it came with adware, you'll start getting pop-up (and pop-under)
ads. They may pop up only when you play or they may pop up
Because adware is still relatively
new and totally unregulated, companies are still experimenting.
Some adware just collects
and stores data, which can include highly personal information.
Companies sometimes tell you up front about
the software and what it does. But most of the time, you
the fine print in user agreements to discover that a program
intends to spy on you. If the FBI was doing this, people
would be screaming bloody murder.
Why is it called "Spyware"?
While this may be a great concept, the downside is that the
advertising companies also install additional tracking
software on your system, which is continuously "calling
home", using your Internet connection and reports
statistical data to the "mothership". While according
to the privacy policies of the companies, there will be
no sensitive or identifying data collected from your system
and you shall remain anonymous, it still remains the fact,
that you have a "live" server sitting on your
PC that is sending information about you and your surfing
habits to a remote location.
Are all Adware products "Spyware"?
No, but the majority are. There are also products that
do display advertising but do not install any tracking
on your system. These products are not indexed in our database.
Is Spyware illegal?
Even though the name may indicate so, Spyware
is not an illegal type of software in any way. However there
that a privacy oriented user may object to and therefore
prefer not to use the product. This usually involves
the tracking and sending of data and statistics via a server
installed on the user's PC and the use of your Internet
connection in the background.
What's the hype about?
While legitimate adware companies will disclose the nature
of data that is collected and transmitted in their privacy
statement (linked from our database), there is almost no
way for the user to actually control what data is being sent.
The fact is that the technology is in theory capable of sending
much more than just banner statistics - and this is why many
people feel uncomfortable with the idea.
On the other hand...
Millions of people are using advertising supported "spyware" products
and could not care less about the privacy hype..., in fact
some "Spyware" programs are among the most popular
downloads on the Internet.
You may want to take action
against one of the spyware perpetrators.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints
about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file
go to the FTC web site, call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write
to: Federal Trade Commission, CRC-240, Washington,
If your complaint is against a company outside the
US, file your complaint at http://www.econsumer.gov/.
You may never see any action as a result of your complaint,
but if the stream of complaints keeps on, just maybe
some action will be taken to guard us all from this
'attack' on our privacy and our lives.
Tools to clean Spyware from
your PC system
There are several tools available that let you
detect and remove Spyware from your PC system. Cyberhome
endorses Spybot - Search & Destroy, Ad-aware, and ZoneAlarm.
are other products available (click
here for a .pdf list),
but these are the best-of-the-best. Click on the product
logo to go
site for detail
information and downloads.
If you need Acrobat Reader to read .pdf files
can install and setup any of these tools on your your
PC. Call 727-523-7406 for details.
Spybot - Search & Destroy from pepiMK Software can detect
and remove spyware of different kinds from your computer.
is free, so there's no harm in trying to see if something
into your computer.
PC Magazine has recently written a great
here to read it) about spyware and ways to
remove it. After reviewing 9 different spyware
removal programs, they came to this conclusion:
"Only one, PepiMK Software's SpyBot Search & Destroy
(our Editors' Choice), actually managed to destroy the spyware
and adware it detected without leaving much detritus behind.
[...] SpyBot Search & Destroy is the best of the bunch.
And as a free application (with a voluntary donation requested),
it's far more worthy than competitors that cost upward of
Ad-aware Standard Edition by Lavasoft is
the award winning, free, multi component detection and removal
utility that has
industry in safety, user satisfaction, support and reliability.
Ad-aware Plus Edition is the next level in protection. It
includes all the functionality and power of the Standard
Edition, but has been enhanced to provide the user with expandability,
customization and real-time monitoring and blocking for their
system or network. Not only can you remove privacy threats
from your computing environment, you can also BLOCK them
from invading your system in the first place!
ZoneAlarm Basic is a free personal firewall that allows you
to regulate any software that uses the internet, it can be
spyware communication. ZoneAlarm provides the basic protection
individuals need to secure their PC and keep their valuable
ZoneAlarm Pro is the award-winning PC firewall that
keeps your personal data and privacy safe from Internet
hackers and data thieves. Shield your system with our proven,
personal firewall. Keep hackers at bay with protection
against worms, Trojans, spyware, and 46 types of malicious
attachments. ZoneAlarm Pro includes Cookie Control and
Ad Blocking for a faster, safer Internet experience.