Anti-Spyware Software Terms and Definitions

Several unique terms and phrases describe the features of software we review on this site, some easier to grasp than others. This list briefly defines terms relevant to Anti-Spyware Software.


Features

Components that are searched for:

All anti-spyware software will search your computer for certain types of components or applications. This feature identifies how many different components are searched for when running the Anti-Spyware software. Most anti-spyware component databases are updated on a regular basis.


Rollback/Restore Capabilities:

This feature allows you to restore any component that was deleted by the anti-spyware software. Occasionally when deleting a spyware component, a particular application may stop working because it was dependent on the particular spyware component to be present. Rollback or Restore features allow you to retrieve the spyware component from a special quarantined area so that your application will resume running. This feature analyzes the threat level of each spyware component found. Knowing the threat level of certain components will allow you to better understand the spyware component so that you can choose whether to delete, quarantine, or ignore the component entirely. Risk Analysis is essential to making informed decisions before removing any spyware components.


Descriptions of Found Spyware:

When spyware or adware components are found, there is a description available that tells you what it is meant to do, where it came from, etc. Some even link to the creator's website.


Scan Scheduling:

This feature allows you to set a schedule for automatically scanning your hard drive. For example, scan every time the computer boots up, etc.


Auto Updates:

This means that the program will automatically search for and download the latest program or spyware definition updates. In other words, as new spyware or adware apps are developed, the program is kept in sync with new ways of detecting and removing them.


Tracking Cookie Blocking:

Tracking cookies are cookies used by some marketers or websites to track personal information regarding your surfing habits.


Real-time Blocking and Protection:

The program actively monitors your computer in the background and alerts you or blocks it before the spyware components are downloaded or installed.


Scans Removable Media:

Storage media that are removed from the computer, such as floppy diskettes, tapes, CD-ROM disks.


Detection and Deletion Capabilities

Adware:

Software that monitors your online activities to initiate Pop-Up advertising or other targeted marketing purposes. Adware can install components onto your computer that track personal information (including your age, gender, location, buying preferences, surfing habits, etc.) Some Adware can install itself on your computer even if you decline the offer.


Spyware:

Spyware is any application that tracks your online behavior without your knowledge or consent.


Keyloggers:

Programs that capture and record your every keystroke, including personal information and passwords. Keyloggers are applications designed to monitor computer activity to various degrees. These programs can capture virtually everything you do on your computer including recording of all keystrokes, emails, chat room dialogue, web sites visited, and programs run. System monitors usually run in the background so that you do not know that you are being monitored. The information gathered by the system monitor is stored on your computer in an encrypted log file for later retrieval. Some programs are capable of emailing the log files to another location.


Trojans:

Trojans are malicious programs that appear as harmless or desirable applications. Trojans are designed to cause loss or theft of computer data, and to destroy your system. Some trojans, called RATs (Remote Administration Tools), allow an attacker to gain unrestricted access of your computer whenever you are online. The attacker can perform activities such as file transfers, adding/deleting files or programs, and controlling the mouse and keyboard. Trojans are generally distributed as email attachments or bundled with another software program.


Active X Controls:

Active X is technology produced by Microsoft that enables different applications to interact easily with each other. For example, Microsoft Word can be opened in an Internet Explorer browser and specific communications needs to occur between Microsft Word & Internet Explorer. Sometimes these communication rules are exploited by malicious applications and they can cause harm to your computer.


Scumware:

Scumware often alters the content of websites you are accessing, changing the normal links to re-route you to other websites. They can also broadcast information that you submit in forms, it can create more pop-up windows in your browser, it can track each and every single website that you visit, how long you stay, and which links you clicked on. Most of the time scumware hides itself on your computer in multiple locations to hinder the removal process.


Dialers:

Dialers are a type of software typically used by vendors serving pornography via the Internet. Once dialer software is downloaded, the user is disconnected from their modem's usual Internet service provider, re-connected to another Internet service provider (new dial-up telephone number), and the user is billed at exorbitant rates. Dialers do not "spy" on their intended victims, but these malevolent programs can rack up significant long distance phone charges, costing victims time and money.


Malware:

Malware is short for malicious software. Malware is software designed specifically to disrupt a computer system. For example, a trojan horse or a virus is considered malware. Some advertising software can be malicious in that it can try to re-install itself after you remove it. Basically, it is virus ware.


Data Mining:

Data mining is an information extraction activity whose goal is to discover hidden facts contained in databases. Using a combination of machine learning, statistical analysis, modeling techniques, and database technology, data mining finds patterns and subtle relationships in data and infers rules that allow the prediction of future results. For example: people purchasing wood on the Internet would have painting supplies cross sold to them. Typical applications include market segmentation, customer profiling, fraud detection, evaluation of retail promotions, and credit risk analysis.


Parasites:

Parasites are programs that get installed on your computer which you never asked for, which does some type of activity that you didn't intend for it to do. Almost all the parasites that are currently known are only compatible with Windows, and some only affect the Internet Explorer browser.


Toolbars:

Toolbars can be downloaded to your web browser to make browsing easier. Examples are Google, Alexa, and Yahoo toolbars. Even though these toolbars are very handy to use, these toolbars have the ability to track everything you do on the Internet and to pass that information back to the owners of the toolbars. Be cautious to read the terms and conditions page before you download any toolbar.


Drive By Downloads:

A drive-by download is a program that is automatically downloaded to your computer, often without your consent or even your knowledge. Unlike a pop-up download, which asks for consent (albeit in a deceitful manner likely to lead to a "yes"), a drive-by download is carried out invisibly to the user. They can be initiated by simply visiting a Web site or viewing an HTML email message. Frequently, a drive-by download is installed along with another application.


Tracking Cookies:

Cookies are small pieces of information that are generated by a web server and stored on your computer for future access. Cookies were originally implemented to allow you to customize your web experience, and still continue to serve useful purposes in enabling a personalized web experience. However, some web sites now issue adware cookies, which allow multiple web sites to store and access cookies that may contain personal information (including surfing habits, user names and passwords, areas of interest, etc.), and then simultaneously share the information it contains with other web sites. This sharing of information allows marketing firms to create a user profile based on your personal information and sells it to other firms. Adware cookies are almost always installed and accessed without your knowledge or consent.


Registry Keys:

Microsoft Windows stores all of your application information in your registry keys, for example, what software to run, where is the software located, etc. Viruses can manipulate these settings so that applications stop running or run when least expected.


Browser Hijackers /Browser Helper Objects (BHO):

Browser hijackers are programs that run automatically every time you start your Internet browser. These hijackers can sometimes control your browser, like Internet Explorer. Some Browser Helper Objects are really good for expanding your browser capabilities, but there are others that may not need your permission to install and which can be used for malicious purposes like gathering info on your surfing habits. This can cause anything from incompatibility issues to corrupting important system functions making them not only a threat to your security, but also to your systems stability.

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