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Home Network Vulnerabilities: Spam, Cookies, Pop-Ups, Spyware, and Scams

Chapter Description

In addition to viruses and worms, there are some other annoying programs and files out there that you need to protect your home network from. This chapter focuses on spam, cookies, spyware, and scams—what they are, how they work, and how to get rid of or at least control them.

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Spyware/Adware

Spyware or adware refers to programs that are installed on your machine for the express purpose of tracking your online movements. Spyware is typically installed without your knowledge. It can become a real problem by slowing down your machine's performance and slowing down your online activity because the network connection is being shared by the programs that are sending information back to the third-party vendors who paid to place the programs on your machine.

How Spyware or Adware Works

Spyware or adware is installed on your machine in a number of different ways:

  • The most common by far is through the installation of programs that hide the spyware file within the main program.
  • Through peer-to-peer sharing programs (such as Morpheus), certain websites install pyware programs.
  • Some forms of cookies are considered spyware as well.

One company called Double-Click created a version of spyware by connecting cookies from tens of thousands of websites. This information is used to "spy" on you while you surf the Internet. Although this ploy was bad, it still only spied on your Internet browsing. Other more aggressive forms of spyware can and do collect personal information on you by scanning files, e-mails, and e-mail address books.

How to Get Rid of Spyware and Adware

Although some ISPs provide spyware blockers, we strongly recommend the purchase of a commercial spyware sweeper. If you have been using the Internet for any amount of time and have not run a spyware blocker on your machine, you will likely be shocked by the number of spyware files found on your machine when you first install the sweeper.

We found one site that has a nice comparison of various spyware sweepers called Adawarereport.com. You may also want to do some research by going to http://www.google.com and doing a search on spyware blockers.

Ultimately, your willingness to put up with spyware is a matter of your personal tolerance, but keep in mind that after the information leaves your machine, there is no telling where it goes or who sees it. You really should err on the side of caution.

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