What is Scumware and How can I Stop it affecting Me?

There are a number of utility plug-in and helper applications available that you can download from the internet. These utilities offer to perform some useful function for you so that you expect to benefit by downloading by downloading them. Unfortunately, a small number of these utilities also download some other software to your computer along with the useful application. This other software that gets downloaded performs functions that the software producer wants rather than what you want. This software was originally known as Scumware because it hijacks the use of your computer. More recently the name spyware has become more popular when referring to this software.

The task of this software is to modify the pages that you view in your browser to override links in the page and add additional links all without the knowledge or permission of yourself or the owner of the web page. The Spyware actually installs itself as a plug-in to your browser. Because the changes to the page are made to the cached copy on your computer the web page owner will remain completely unaware that the page you are seeing has been altered from what they created. Ads that they placed on their page will be replaced with ads that the spyware producer wants to display resulting in a loss of revenue for the page owner. In addition selected keywords wherever they appear on the web page will be converted into links that will transfer you to a web site of the spyware owners choosing.

Imagine the effect of the spyware program changing all references to the word "fun" to link to a pornographic site. How many occurrences of this word would you typically find on a web page aimed at children? If you didn't know that the links were created by spyware then you would blame the web page owner who in fact doesn't even know that these links exist.

Obviously, none of us want this spyware on our computer.

So what can we do to check if this spyware has somehow found its way onto our computer. Well to start with, the spyware links appear as green or yellow text rather than in the usual link colours. This doesn't mean that all green or yellow links are spyware created but there is a good chance that if you see links in these colours that you have spyware installed on your computer.

The Scumware.com website has more information about this type of program and the common downloadable utilities that spyware hides behind. The site also has a utility that will tell you if you have spyware installed as a plug-in on your browser and information on how to remove the spyware if it is installed. You might also visit Lavasoft and download Ad-Aware which can scan your PC for spyware and other unwanted advertising monitors at regular intervals.

Spyware seems to currently only be affecting Internet Explorer so another alternative that you might consider it to switch to using a different browser such as Netscape or Opera.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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