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Where to start? What is Spyware? That's sounds like the logical place to begin! Here is the "Webopedia" definition of "Spyware". (Webopedia was our Cool Site of the Week in our March 14, 2003 Issue#59)

Also called adware, spyware is any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. Once installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and transmits that information in the background to someone else. Spyware can also gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords and credit card numbers. Spyware is similar to a Trojan horse in that users unwittingly install the product when they install something else.(copyright 2000-2003 © Webopedia.com)

In other words, spyware is software that you download on purpose, or have rammed down your throat (like Gator, "Name removed due to threat of lawsuit", and their ilk). You may have seen the popups that appear from Gator where if you click YES it automatically downloads and installs on your computer. You may not even be aware that it's installing. Yet, Gator is one of the most vicious and wide-spread of all spyware programs. Recently ""Name removed due to threat of lawsuit"" has taken to using the same tricks. They now now pay advertising networks to display their popup banners which mislead the unsuspecting to think it's a Microsoft® product that is an "upgrade to Outlook". It is neither a Microsoft product nor is it an upgrade to Outlook. It is merely a toolbar which displays advertising on your computer in exchange for you getting to add backgrounds (stationery) "smiley faces" to your email and "skins" to your toolbar. However we feel you pay a heavy price for what you get. You pay for it with your privacy (see http://thundercloud.net/help/"Name removed due to threat of lawsuit"-is-spyware.htm ).

Think of spyware as a kind of "Trojan horse". Don't know what a "Trojan horse" is? Click here. While spyware usually doesn't damage your system (but once installed it can be nearly impossible to remove) we consider it "malicious" in the way it secretly transmits data about your browsing habits, and other data back it can transmit about you back to its home base (server).

Here's more disturbing information about spyware: In most cases spyware agents run on your system even while you are not running the software it came with. When you uninstall the host application the spyware agent may remain and still run. (you may have to get a cleaner/remover or download an uninstall program from the media company). Spyware agents are often buggy and can cause unexplained system crashes. Also, users in most cases have no idea what the spyware is sending. For example the privacy policy may state that ONLY banner statistics are sent, but the technology can really send anything it wants to. Sometimes advertising companies have been caught and they blame a bug in their software for sending "more" personal details than they were meant to and this can (and should) cause much concern!

Other ways companies can spy on you is by placing a "bug" or tiny graphic in emails they send you or even the ones you send! One program, places a cute little blinking icon (animated gif) under your signature of every email you send. Ever wonder why? That graphic links to what is called a "redirect" meaning while it appears to be just a link to a Web site, it is actually redirecting you to that Web site via another page (which you don't see) where information about you is being extracted (i.e. time of day, your email address, your IP address *IP address is your unique identification number on the Internet* and other information about you).

Let's face the fact that the Internet is becoming less and less like the ethereal free playground that it once was and is slowly being taken over by corporations and others trying to make a lot of money. Some of these people are just plain leeches in our opinion. And there are many fine and honest companies doing business on the Web as well. It's knowing which is which that's difficult to determine. We, at Cloudeight, buy many things online from reputable companies and think it's a wonderful way to shop for things you want or need. But there are some very bad apples out there. You, as a "Netizen" have to beware of products which are "Free" but presented by large companies. Corporations don't exist to give you free things. They're giving you free things to make money. "Name removed due to threat of lawsuit", Gator, Incredimail, Bonsai Software, and many others offer "Free" software that is suspect and may indeed by spyware. These are all owned by large companies, and all in the business to make a profit. Creating spyware is one fast, easy, profitable way, for a company to make money.

How do companies make money on spyware? Research companies spend millions of dollars on research. The data collected allows companies to target their advertising at certain individuals who have a greater likelihood of buying their products. On the Internet, this research is done automatically by "spyware". For example "Name removed due to threat of lawsuit" tracks the Web pages you visit and gathers information about you so they can offer "targeted advertising" which then appears in their "toolbar". When spyware has millions of users (many, if not most, of them duped into downloading the software) they can create databases worth a great deal of money. Who's the pawn in all this? You are. And, "Privacy Policies" should be taken with a grain of salt. They're only as good as the companies behind them.

Are all Adware spyware? Most programs that contain ads contain spyware (the components are built in). However there are few programs that display ads that do not have any spyware.

If you're interested in reading more about spyware here are two recent newspaper articles you can read:

Is there any good, honest freeware?
Yes! There are thousands and thousands of companies and individuals who make excellent free software and rely on those of you who enjoy using it to help support that software. Some make great programs and just love to share them. Sites like ours for example, are not owned by big companies. There are only two of us here, and we started this out as a hobby and it's turned into a full time job. We really do love to share but when our site grew to the size it is now, it started costing a lot of money just to give things away. We obviously need help to stay online. We can only exist if you help us by supporting the advertisers on our site, buy our CD-ROMs, or order one of the products we offer through our partners or through the software licensing deals we have. We never have and never will resort to "Spyware" to pay our expenses. We'll shut the site down before we ever resort to spyware! That's a promise!

What can you do about Spyware? It's up to you. Only you can make the decision if you feel comfortable giving up your privacy and how much of your privacy to give up. We make sure our systems are free of spyware and we won't use it; but it's very much a matter of personal choice. There are programs which we suspect are spyware but which are suspiciously absent from spyware lists. If you're not sure of what is spyware and what is not spyware download one of the free programs listed below and scan your computer for spyware. We've included a link to a free online spyware scanner for you to use as well.

We hope you've found the information on this page useful and enlightening. We hope you will help support our by checking out ways you can help us continue to wage our battle for free, family-oriented, non-spyware, content. We rely on your generosity to help keep us going. Please click here to learn how you can help!

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