A Conundrum Called Adware!

By: Srikanth G.K Hegde

We, as dedicated computer and software users, have traversed a long way from those bad days, when our computers used to get attacked by vicious sounding viruses, Trojans, spyware and malwares. We are still are under constant threat from attack by invisible viruses or spyware. As the word "spyware" became a household name, and when it started creating havoc on thousands of computer systems the world over, security experts and anti-virus software professionals started taking notice of the menace posed by these spyware modules.

Strangely, all these spywares were designed and propagated by the so called software majors! However, with the passage of time, the word "spyware" became a dirty word among computer users, which needed to be avoided at any cost! As a result, everyone started to think that spyware is a piece of software that closely monitors your activities on computers and reports them back to its maker. In fact, all software users were neatly outflanked by these smart operators, who surreptitiously planted their evil creations in the computer systems. It was a peculiar situation, when people simply abhorred the word "spyware", and they got irritated when it was suggested to them that their computer systems were being spied upon by these spyware modules. As a result, it was so convenient to label these software items, as something that is very dirty. And, it was a good way to make sure that everyone listened to this fact!

But, the situation is entirely different today; if you notice, there are a lot of public relation exercises that keep coming at you, non-stop for twenty-four hours a day. Many software majors claim that they are not making spyware anymore, but they make highly innovative "adware"! Paradoxically, these firms also claim that adware is actually very good for your computer system! As all computer users were just sighing relief, thinking that they had decisively won the moral war against "spyware", they were in for a real surprise! Many software majors wanted to push computer users all over the world, with a clever strategy that was devised with a novel idea in mind (maybe ulterior?).

Though, these software majors stopped creating spyware altogether, they found another smart way to outflank computer users! It was very ingenious as well! And it had to be! It is so true that someone could plant legal software right into your computer, with your own consent, to monitor your online activities and browsing habits! And the amazing thing with these software modules was that there was absolutely no need to send those vital bits of information back to the software company! The program that was installed on your computer system did everything by itself!

These smart software items were designed to perform the same thing that was performed by spyware. However, there was no need for any spying with these software modules. The creators of these software programs were intelligent enough to call them "adware" and their monster creation was promoted by floating a huge publicity campaign. All of this was done to separate out adware from spyware!

A typical promotional ad ran like:

"Spyware is really bad and it deserves all those scoldings and whip lashes from people. Here is the change - what is being given to you is an adware, which we're providing to you free of charge, provided you allow us to display some simple ads! But, there are some people who still hate all forms of advertising! Our adware is totally safe and secure for your computer system."

It was all so brilliant and smart! We were really outflanked again by them! The big debate was not about how pervert it is to spy on us
without our knowledge, but whether or not advertising was a bad thing! In fact, the truth was that the software was achieving the same thing as before and nothing was really changed! In all, the big debate was centered on ads and not on spying!

Now, the big question is this: Is adware really that bad?

Here is a typical scenario:

It is all about your perception and how you create your own opinions.

When you call a spyware a real parasite, you're automatically adding two different meanings!

Scenario A: It was definitely true that spyware is a monstrous creation that is designed to do only the bad things.

Scenario B: Spyware also meant that it was very evil in its nature, which made you and me take notice of its existence.

Over a period of years, an effort was made by us to make spyware, as something that is very dirty and bad. But, an equal effort was put to make adware a passable word, so as to make us believe that adware is totally different from spyware.

Do you really believe this argument? Most probably NO! It is time to act tough and stop pretending that adware is different from spyware! What exactly is the real difference between spyware and adware? The real truth is that there is not an iota of difference between them!

Here is the summary of the activities of each of these software programs:

Spyware = Monitoring your online activities and reporting them back to the creator.

Adware = It is stealthy, secretive, suspicious and as effective as damaging spyware. Same unannounced entry! Same pop-up ads!

If adware is so good and better (as claimed by its creators), why are computer users like you and me still complaining about it? Is it due to adware's ability to know which online shops you visit and the type of goods you buy on them? Most probably, it is just a tip of a bigger picture.

You may notice that you're disgusted to see that your computer takes ages to load up or you may get angry to see that, brand new toolbars appear over your browser. It is also painful to see those innumerable pop-ads loading on your desktop with an amazing regularity. You may also notice that your web browsers change their settings to something that is totally unexpected. In total, you have already lost control of your own computer and you're helpless as well! Maybe you never observe this fact- it is all the same thing, from those spyware to today's adwares! But, when it happens to you and your computer, you just want to shout and yell, STOP!

Did you ever know that adware is installed by those web sites that exploit many security flaws that exist in your computer system? Do you feel that companies that install such a program are perfectly legitimate? Definitely NO! These adwares are so intelligent in their software structure; adware is supported by a root kit that perfectly hides adware files. This is done intentionally to prevent you from detecting them. If your adware is perfect and legal, why are the so called creators trying to hide them from your gaze?

Adware is designed with such brilliance that it comes packaged with several memory files that keep appearing even when you delete them. All deleted entries keep bouncing back, even when they have been removed altogether. It means that adware is extremely difficult to remove from your computer. If this is true, adware is beginning to look like a very suspicious piece of software! How do you call adware a legitimate program, when you see your computer becoming a factory for producing tens of unintended pop-up windows on your desktop?

It is the right time to think critically and arrive at a valid conclusion to decide whether adware is legitimate or not. Let us stop
pretending to think that adware is a lesser evil than a spyware. It is also the right time not to pretend that adware is better than spyware. It is also a ripe time to stop pretending that there is a lot of difference between these two programs. Just make a visit to one of those spyware and adware forums, and you'll understand why there are so many messages that are posted on the message boards that specifically ask for help to remove those annoying adwares. Most of the requests that are posted on these forums invariably center on an adware.

If you ask any experienced expert about an adware program, he or she will express a similar opinion that it is bad and painful. If you also ask them, if it is really possible to distinguish between spyware and adware, the answer will be a definite NO! In all possibilities and in essence, both are the same and identical.

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