Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Adware vs. Spyware

Adware is advertising that comes with freeware you download to your computer. Often times when you download a trial or a free version of a program, that program is sponsored by a company. That company sponsors the program to have the right to advertise on the program or in a pop-up window. A common mode of adware is through online poker programs that you download to your computer. A lot of college students play poker online using programs they download for free, and most of those programs come with adware either in the program or in pop-ups or both. With most adware when you close the program the advertisements go away, but sometimes a series of pop-ups appear instead.

Spyware is different from adware in that the ads you see are related to you. The freeware that you download tracks your activities and as a result you see ads that are more enticing to you. Spyware is similar to Trojans because you unknowingly download other programs that track your activities when you download another program. Spyware can monitor your keystrokes, scan files, install other programs, read cookies, change your homepage and send all of that information back to the author who shares it with advertising companies or sells it. Since spyware shares information with other parties I think spyware is definitely more dangerous than adware. A common medium of downloading spyware is through peer-to-peer sharing programs.

I think adware and software was brought about as a way of companies being able to offer free programs. I think adware came about first, and someone realized the potential for gain and began what is now known as spyware by selling information. Spyware authors benefit because they make money on selling the information they collect. Advertising companies benefit because they are able to send specific advertisements to different users to target consumers better and thus make more money. Some companies benefit from adware and spyware because it allows them to share trial versions of their programs at very little cost to them. They eventually make even more money back when people pay for the full version of programs.


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