Spyware refers to a kind of malware that can be installed on personal computers and engages in the collection of information from the users without their consent and knowledge. Spyware are usually concealed from the user, increasing the difficulty of detecting their presence. However, there are other instances whereby spywares are installed by corporations on a shared network with the main objective of monitoring the network users (Aycock, 2010). The use of spywares extends beyond the mere monitoring of users to include the collection of personal data like internet browsing habits, frequently visited sites and posing interference with the user control through avenues like automatic installation of additional software and the redirection of the web browser activities. Spywares are typically known for altering the settings of the computer, reducing the internet connection speeds, resulting to different homepages, affecting the functionality of other installed programs and sometimes loss of internet connectivity (Erbschloe, 2005).
The spreading of spywares is not done in a same manner as computer viruses and worms are distributed; in most cases, a system that has been infected by spywares does not engage in transmitting the spyware infection to other computers. The spywares usually enters in a computer system via the deception of the user and sometimes through taking advantage of application software vulnerabilities. Most spywares install themselves without the user knowing and make use of deception in order to avoid their detection and disruption of their working. There are some rogue spyware applications that pose as security programs while others are piggybacked on desirable software (Fox, 2005). The software distributor claims that the application is a useful utility or a software agent in order to trick the users to install the spyware and create a perception that the software will not cause any potential harm on the system. Spyware infection can also be due to bundled software, whereby the user downloads and install the software, which in turn automatically attempts to install the spyware. The desirable software is usually harmless, which is contrary to the case of the bundled malware (Fox, 2005). There are reported cases whereby the spyware developers have colluded with shareware developers in order to bundle the spyware with the desirable software utility. Spyware authors sometime repackage the desirable software and integrate their spyware in the software utility. Another mode of infection is through the exploitation of the security vulnerabilities of the web browsers, whereby the users are redirected to website that is under the control of spyware, which usually contains script code that attacks the web browser, forcing it to download and install the spyware (Erbschloe, 2005). The spyware developers usually have comprehensive knowledge of the firewall and antivirus applications that are available commercially and make use of the ‘drive-by-download’ to make the users vulnerable to malware installation. The Internet explorer is one of the common targets of spywares due to its long range of security issues and its extensive integration into the Windows environment. Browser Helper Objects serve to modify the behavior of the web browsers and installs additional tool bars and redirection of the traffic (Fox, 2005).
The privacy threats and a compromise on the system performance have increased in the recent past resulting to the development of a number of techniques to counteract the threats through the development of programs that can block and remove the spyware, which are referred to as anti-spyware programs that are used for providing real-time protection, detection and removal of the spyware that has already infected the computer system (Erbschloe, 2005).
Experience with spywares
A spyware program usually results to multiple infections, which in turn result to unwanted behavior and reduction in the performance of the computer system. Most notable experiences of spyware include the creation of unwanted Central Processing Unit activity, unwanted memory, disk usage and imposing effects on the network traffic. This is because spywares function in the background and utilize the network resources through avenues such pop up advertisements. Another experience in relation to spyware is the system and application software stability issues, which are characterized by the freezing of applications, the computer failing to boot, frequent system crashes. Traffic issues are because the spyware usually posed interference to the software used for networking, resulting to difficulties in internet connection. There are cases whereby the user is likely to assume that the system problems are imposed by faulty hardware and operating system installation problems. This posed the need for a re-installation of new operating system because the spyware rendered the system unusable.