Spyware and Adware Security

What is Spyware and Adware?

Spyware is deceptive, unauthorized software that covertly installs itself on your computer through vulnerabilities in the operating system and web browser or by piggybacking on other programs when you download what is claimed to be free, such as games, screen savers and music or video filesharing applications.

Once installed on your system, this virus-like software can steal personal information (including your ID) without your knowledge or permission, monitor your computer habits (such as where you shop online, the web sites you visit and how long you stay there, and the files you download), vandalize local machine data or use your machine as a platform from which to attack other computers and networks. Some spyware even allows others to store files on your computer or use your network bandwidth without your knowledge. More than simply an annoyance like spam, the malicious and proliferating invasions of spyware represent dangerous violations of personal privacy that are rapidly becoming a major security concern.

Associated with spyware is so called Adware. These unauthorized programs sneak onto your system, generate unsolicited and annoying pop-up ads (including pornographic material) or run silently in the background, collecting data about your browsing habits for transmission to remote databases. They can clutter your desktop, alter system files, slow done your browsing capabilities and severely impair your computer's performance.

Many of the companies distributing spyware and adware can claim their software is installed legitimately. They bury consent for installing their malicious programs in the small type of the documentation of the legitimate software you are downloading. If you are among those who do not read nor fully understand the license agreements and privacy statements you are signing, you may be missing the opportunity to decline the install of spyware by consenting unknowingly to being infected.

Symptoms of Infection

Computers that have spyware or adware running typically exhibit some or all of the following common symptoms:

  • Unusually slow or sluggish processing (including slow booting and web browsing)
  • Random advertising pop-ups
  • Unusual system instability (including consistent system hangs and more computer crashes than usual), or
  • Odd browser behavior such as:
    • Inability to browse web pages at all
    • Redirection to search sites you have never seen,
    • Gaining a toolbar you did not intentionally install
    • Having your default home page changed.
    • Difficulty logging into secure websites like myUBC or Blackboard Vista

Preventing and Removing Infection

  • Always install from trusted sources
  • Avoid programs most likely to subject you to spyware & adware infection, including Peer-2-Peer file sharing programs or freeware. (If you are unsure about a product, do a Google search on it before installing, to ascertain if it's spyware or not.)
  • Though the list below is by no means exhaustive, the following applications may be either spyware or adware themselves, and may install additional programs along with the intended download.
    • Aimster
    • Alexa
    • ATTune
    • AudioGalaxy
    • Aureate / Radiate
    • Bad Blue
    • Bargain Buddy
    • BearShare
    • BitTorrent
    • Blubster
    • Bonzai Buddy
    • Brilliant Digital
    • Comet Cursor
    • CommonName
    • CyDoor
    • Direct Connect
    • DiVx Bundle
    • DLDER
    • DoubleclickDownload
      • Accelerators
      • Managers
    • DSSAgent
    • Earth Station 5
    • Edonkey & Edonkey 2000
    • Emule & E-Mule
    • EzUla
    • Expedioware
    • EverAd
    • Filetopia
    • Flyswat
    • Freenet
    • GAIN
    • Gator
    • Gnotella & Gnutella
    • Gnucleus
    • GoZilla
    • Gratisware
    • Grokster
    • HotBar
    • Imesh
    • Kazaa & Kazaa Media Desktop
    • Limewire
    • Mactella
    • Madster
    • Morpheus
    • Napster
    • OneMix
    • OfferCompanion
    • OnFlow
    • Phex
    • Pop-up blocking software (Most, except the Google toolbar)
    • Pornography web sites and related programs
    • Qtella
    • Shareaza
    • Slyck
    • Smirk
    • Soulseek
    • TimeSink
    • Transponder
    • Trickler
    • Weatherbug
    • Web3000
    • WebHancer
    • WinMX
    • Web search toolbars (Most, except the Google toolbar)
    • Webshots
    • Xolox
  • Carefully read all disclosures, including the license agreement and privacy statement, before installing anything on your computer. Don't take Yes for an Answer
  • When you attempt to decline the invitation to download, some spyware and adware may refuse to take your No for an answer. Instead of clicking Yes, close the web page by clicking the X in the corner of the window, or exit your browser and restart your internet session.
  • Use the latest version of web browser software (always update).
  • Configure the security setting of your web browser to medium or higher level.
  • Set your browser not to allow third-party or session cookies.
  • Though legitimate Web sites will not infect computers with spyware or adware, they sometimes place tiny files called cookies on your computer, that remember information.
  • Use a personal firewall such as Internet Connection Firewall which comes with Windows XP or MACOS-X and Linux.
  • Remove spyware & adware from your computer as soon as possible. Configuration changes that spyware & adware make to your computer can permanently damage its operating system.