Spyware Stoppers

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Confused by BHOs and Hosts? Here's a primer on important terms in anti-spyware lingo.

Adware--PC World defines adware as advertising-supported software that plays by the rules, no matter how obnoxious you might think it. Adware displays a prominent End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) during the install, does not install any other applications without explicitly asking the user's permission, and provides an effective uninstaller in Windows Add or Remove Programs section.

BHO--Browser Helper Objects are small programs used to customize Internet Explorer. Spyware and adware developers often use Browser Helper Objects to write components that load with Internet Explorer each time it starts.

Cookies--Small text files placed on the user's system when visiting a particular Web site. Cookies can be used to locally store log-in or preference information to help personalize or enhance the user's experience. Most browsers provide a means to block cookies; however, many Web sites will not function properly if cookies are not allowed.

Hijacker--Changes to the system that cause users to be forcibly redirected to Web sites other than those they have specified. A hijacker is often used to redirect users to pornography sites.

Hosts file--A text file that correlates Web site names to specific IP addresses. Entries in the Hosts file will override remote DNS queries typically handled by the ISP. Modifications to the Hosts file can force the user to visit a site other than the one expected or can be used to prevent access to a specified site.

Processes--Any executable programs that use CPU time, memory, or other resources.

Registry--A database of settings used by Windows that control hardware, software, and user preferences. Modifications to the Registry can allow unwanted programs to load, prevent wanted programs from loading properly, or change the user's browser preferences.

Spyware--Software that is surreptitiously installed on the user's system to monitor the user's Internet activities and that often displays advertising based on that monitoring.

Mary Landesman is a spyware and antivirus researcher and consultant, and serves as the antivirus guide for About.com.
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