As if regular viruses and worms weren’t bad enough, the new bane of the IT Professional is spy-ware and its cousin, adware. These programs usually come as a part of legitimate shareware, but hide themselves in such a way that you don’t always know when they’re being installed. They just sit in the background and drain system resources, either displaying advertisements or reporting back system activity to a central location. Marketers use information gathered from these programs to target pop-up ads and spam.
Spyware does more than just send information. Because it’s usually poorly written, often times it causes programs like Internet Explorer to crash. It can also take over the settings of programs to display ads or redirect Web pages. Because spyware runs in the background, it can also degrade overall system performance, especially on workstations that are already near the base system requirements of an operating system.
Spyware doesn’t always take the form of a separate program. Sometimes it can be a simple tracking cookie used by a Web site or e-mail. Common spy-ware includes: