A spyware is basically a small software application, which is mostly used to collect and transmit information from online computer platforms. Most of the spywares in existence today come as bundled with other forms of software that are downloaded from the internet and get installed as legitimate programs on victim’s hard drive. This is the first and major identity: spywares never come as stand-alone software programs, but are mostly ‘taken-for-granted’ as secondary application associated with the primary software downloaded or installed. Now, it can be a handy browser toolbar, an antivirus program, instant messaging plugin, or simply any other browser-based extension imitating as a harmless and useful computer application. However, the consequences of such applications may range from keystroke logging and IP tracing to identity theft/abuse/misuse and decreased system performance. There are many types of spywares proliferating over the internet and based on the most common trends, following are some of the major ones:
Adware: Usually installed as a harmless web application, an adware basically monitors and records online activity trends on a computer systems. These applications help some mischievous web firms to target you with their advertisements and earn financial benefits. A basic method to detect an adware is to observe your online search engine query results – if they usually fetch a set of common websites again and again, or land you to an inappropriate websites upon clicking something else, your computer might be nesting an adware bundled into any browser add-on.
Browser Hijacker: In general terms, any program that sets your browser’s default homepage to something else (without your acceptance or permission) can be termed as a hijacker program. It has two primary purposes on your computer besides sniffing on your digital credentials: to keep redirecting you to a particular website for increasing its page rank and to sell your online activity trends to third-party web marketing firms. It’s all cheap and annoying, but they don’t care.
Key Logger: A transparent application which logs your key strokes and sends them to a particular destination online. These key strokes include everything you type on your computer – ID’s, passwords, web addresses, personal notes, e-mails, etc. An even worst fact is that these key loggers can be hiding beside a potentially ‘useful’ application, like a multimedia or file sharing software, protecting it from conventional antivirus programs. Therefore, the best way to detect and remove such an application is to install a firewall client, which usually possesses the ability to catch unauthorized connections established with your computer. Additionally, every user should learn to monitor and recognize active internet connections on his/her computer for detecting and removing this type of spywares.
Invisible Snippets: These are invisible applications unlike the above three, and keep continuing their spying activities without showing up in the form of a software interface. This is the most commonly spread type of spywares, which are primarily known for slowing down the overall system performance. They are commonly initiated as self-sustained services, which have the ability to create restrictions on computer systems. A funnier side is: invisible snippets are commonly named by their developers after normal system services like ‘rundll32’, ‘services’, ‘svchost’, ‘explorer’ etc., which makes an average user like you to think twice before ending them in the services panel, even after they are detected and identified as threats.
There are lots of others. A very useful tip for identifying a spyware infection in your computer is to keep note of all the processes and services running at the back-end of your system. Further, a common inference that can be made between all these types of spywares is that these programs actually do something else while being used for anything else, and now you know the reason why you are not notified about that ‘something else’. Lastly, they consume a huge amount of network bandwidth as well as system memory (besides stealing your information), which clearly makes them the nastiest of applications ever created!