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The Ins and Outs of Spyware by Lesley Herring on 24/04/06

Today, there is a bigger threat to safe and secure computing. This threat has quickly become a bigger headache than viruses, and in some instances it causes more damage than viruses. Time is spent battling this threat more than any other threat in my environment. While working at an insurance company for the past two years many different types of this threat have been seen. A call typically comes in through the help desk initially and then is passed on to me to investigate any unusual or malicious activity. Things that have been investigated consists of end-users calling about pop-ups, complaining that the computer is running slow, the home page of internet explorer is redirecting them to a webpage that is not bookmarked, and from time to time complaining that the computer will not completely boot all the way up. The threat is known as spyware. This paper will discuss what spyware is, what the symptoms of infection are, prevention techniques, sites to do additional research, and removal tools.

In my environment, spyware is the number one thing that affects the end-users. “The term spyware, as it relates to computers, first appeared October 16, 1995 in a Usenet post poking fun at Microsoft’s business model” (Schmidt & Arnett, 2005, p. 68). Spyware is “any software intended to aid an authorized person or entity causing a computer, without the knowledge of the computer’s user or owner to divulge information” (Thompson, 2005, p.42). In November of 1999, the first freeware program to include built-in spyware was a popular game called “Elf Bowling”; many users learned with surprise that the program actually transmitted user information back to the game’s creator, Nsoft (Spyware – Information About Spyware, n.d.). Schmidt and Arnett state that with reports from multiple sources indicating that spyware has reached 90% home users PC (Schmidt & Arnett, 2005). The puzzle is how did it get there?

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