Adware, or advertising-supported software, is any software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertisements to a computer after the software is installed on it or while the application is being used. It is usually integrated into or bundled with a legitimate program. It can be used to carry spyware or trojans.

Spyware is a type of malware that is typically secretly installed on computers and collects little bits of information at a time about users without their knowledge and can be difficult to detect. The software then relays this information to advertisers, marketing groups, and others for advertising or malicious purposes. Information that is commonly collected includes login IDs, PINs, account information and computer files.

Spyware is usually installed without your knowledge when you download legitimate software. Sometimes the fine print of the license agreement includes information about the spyware component, but not always. Spyware is known to change computer settings, resulting in slow connection speeds, different home pages, and/or loss of Internet or functionality of other programs.

Keylogging is a method by which fraudsters record your actual keystrokes and mouse clicks. Keyloggers are “trojan” software programs that target your computer’s operating system (Windows, Mac OS, etc.) and are “installed” via a virus. These can be particularly dangerous because the fraudster can capture your User ID and PIN, account number, Social Security Number, “Secret Question” answers and anything else you have typed. If you happen to have the same User ID and PIN for many different online accounts, you have essentially granted the fraudster access to any company with whom you do business.

Trojan horses are designed to allow a hacker/fraudster remote access to a target computer system. Once a trojan horse has been installed on a target computer system, it is possible for the hacker/fraudster to access it remotely and perform various operations. Operations that could be performed by a hacker/fraudster on a target computer system include:

Use of the machine as part of a botnet (i.e. to perform spamming or to perform Distributed Denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks).

Confidential Data theft: User IDs, PINs, account information.

Installation of software, including other malware.

Downloading or uploading of files.

Modification or deletion of files.

Keystroke logging.

Viewing the user’s screen.

Wasting computer storage space.

Crashing the computer.

A virus is a software capable of causing great harm to files or other programs on a computer. Viruses cannot spread from computer to computer on their own. They usually access new victims through infected email attachments. Some signs that may indicate your computer is infected with a virus include:

It is operating much slower than normal or getting hung up.

You suddenly start seeing pop-up advertisements.

You see a new home page.

A computer worm is a self-replicating malware computer program that uses a computer network to send copies of itself to other computers without user intervention. Unlike a virus, it does not need to attach itself to an existing program. Worms almost always harm the network (mostly by consuming bandwidth), whereas viruses almost always corrupt or modify files on a targeted computer.

A software system that consists of a program, or combination of several programs, designed to hide or obscure the fact that a system has been compromised. Contrary to what its name may imply, a rootkit does not grant administrator access, as it requires prior access to execute and tamper with system files and processes. An attacker may use a rootkit to replace vital system executables, which may then be used to hide processes and files the attacker has installed, along with the presence of the rootkit.


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