What are the Effects of Spyware?

A spyware program is seldom alone on your computer. Any spyware affected machine can be infected by many other components. Users frequently notice strange behavior on their computer. Your computer may slow down, have unwanted CPU activity, disk usage and traffic occurring which you are not doing. The computer may become unstable and it may crash. Spyware interfering with networking software often has trouble connecting with the internet.

In some cases the spyware is not easily found. A user assumes that the problem is hardware related, a Windows problem or a virus. In some cases the user takes in their machine for repairs or buys a new computer because their computer has gotten too slow. At this point a re-installation of the original software is sometimes necessary to bring the computer back up to speed.

Rarely does just one program cause the computer to be unusable. An AOL study in 2004 showed that if the computer had spyware at all, it had dozens of pieces installed. The results of the different programs on the computer causes a computer to crawl along. Some types of spyware disable software firewalls and anti-virus software, reduce browser security settings and open the system to further infections by programs. Some programs have affected or sometimes removed competing programs. One maker, Avenue Media, sued their competitor, Direct Revenue, and they later settled with an agreement not to disable each others’ spyware products.

Some other types of spyware, such as Targetsoft modify system files so they will be hard to remove. Targetsoft modifies the “Winsock” Windows Socket files. The deletion of the spyware infected filed “inetadpt.dll” will interrupt normal network usage. Windows users have administrative privileges. This means that any programs you run, whether you run it or it runs due to Spyware, has open unrestricted access to your system. Spyware has led some users to move from Windows to Linux or Apple Macintosh which are less likely to be targeted by spyware, adware or malware. These programs do not grant the user administrative privileges and do not allow unrestricted access to the system.

Many spyware programs are advertisements. They may appear as pop-up ads on a regular basis, one every few minutes, or when you open a new browser window. Others display ads at specific sites. Spyware operators present programs to advertisers who may purchase ads in the pop-ups display when you visit a particular site. This is one of the reasons that the spyware gathers information on user behavior. Pop-ups are the biggest complaint about spyware and the most obvious form.

Many other people have complained about offensive advertisements. Many spyware advertisements use animation or flickering banner ads which are annoying. Pop-up ads for pornography often display and when children are users this could possibly violate anti-pornography laws in some jurisdictions.

Further programs remove the banner ads belonging to a legitimate ad and replace them with ads that fund the operator. This cuts into advertising funded Web sites where the legitimate ad income pays for the site.

Spyware is an on going problem. The user has to stay informed of the current definitions for adware, spyware, malware, firewall, and anti-virus programs. Stay alert and enjoy the information accessible through the World Wide Web.