With an estimated 90% of computers connected to the internet being infected with spyware, it is very interesting to look at how programs like this spread. How do unethical companies manage to infect millions of computers, while legitimate software developers struggle to get anyone downloading their software? The reason lies in the fact that malicious programs are downloaded differently.
The first thing you need to know is that spyware is not a virus, and so (by definition) it does not try to replicate itself. A virus will try to replicate itself by sending it to your contacts and friends in your instant messaging account once it has infected your machine, whereas spyware doesn’t try to spread like this. Rather, it gets on your computer simply through direct downloads.
The most common way malicious software infects your machine is simply through direct downloads. You may think that you would never intentionally download these programs onto your computer. Well, harmful programs often infect your computer by pretending to be something else, mostly in the form of â€śhoney potâ€ť offerings like free money or adult material. Unsuspecting visitors download the program thinking it will help them out, when in fact it just infects their machine with hard-to-delete spyware.
What should you look out for when it comes to things like this? Mostly, spyware is disguised as things like screen savers (only download a screen saver if you are sure the website is legitimate), free scratch and win programs, pop-up windows that claim you have messages waiting, or the typical â€śyou are the one millionth visitor) type of ads. You have to be aware of things like this because in many cases, they will infect your computer. Just remember that there is no such thing as free money, and in the vast majority of cases, advertisements like this are just aiming to download malicious programs to your computer.
Direct download infections also come in the way of bundled software. This is where the malicious program is bundled with another piece of software, so that you get infected just by downloading a legitimate program. Sometimes, unethical companies will even pay legitimate software developers to include their spyware with the legitimate developers program. In other cases, adware companies will bundle their adware in the legitimate software developers product without them even knowing about it.
With direct downloads infecting millions upon millions of unsuspecting web surfers with spyware, this is the primary method used to infect machines. In order to protect yourself, you really need to watch out and take a close look at everything you download. Ask yourself, is the site reputable? Is the offer realistic? By carefully looking at what you download you can greatly reduce the risk of infection.
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Brad Edwards is a programmer for DisableSpyware.com. He has over 10 years of experience with computers and spyware.