What is spyware, anyway?

Adware and spyware can be mostly classified from this list…

  • No user permission to install
  • Installs silently
  • No uninstaller
  • Takes steps to prevent removal (eg, reinstalls itself)
  • Silently uninstalls competing software
  • Is a wrapper around or bundles known adware/spyware
  • Exploits a security hole
  • No EULA
  • Displays pop-up or pop-under ads
  • Monitors user keystrokes, web history, etc.
  • "Phones home" with monitoring information
  • No privacy policy, or breaches privacy policy
  • Changes user’s ISP (for dialup users)

These are the main criteria to think about. There are plenty of others, of course. Some are subtler, qualitative, or disputed. For example:

  • Vendor runs an affiliate program (Giant itself used to do this to sell its spam filter)
  • Vendor is connected with "shady" web sites

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