FAQ: Scumware, Spyware, Adware and Malware definitions


What does 'Scumware' mean anyway?

Sometimes its easier to understand the concepts behind these types of programs, so here is a mini-reference with definitions which describe how each type of software works and how it is commonly used.

Scumware: Software, scripts or programs that are specifically designed to circumvent or steal revenue and traffic from legitimate web sites. Most scumware is also considered to be spyware since it usually includes programs that transmit your personal information. Scumware is usually installed without consent and bundled with other programs such as popular filesharing programs or Adware.

Spyware: Software components that are usually downloaded for free from the internet and installed with products that send information from the user's computer without their knowledge or consent. Although it is predominantly found in shareware, spyware can also be found in legitimately purchased commercial software that collects personal information from your computer. It is generally considered to consist primarily of 'stealth' components and background processes that may violate your privacy and/or expose your personal information and your computer to attack. Usually the information sent is benign in nature, mostly concerned with general marketing information (ie., spending habits) rather than specific information like credit card numbers, although some programs are capable of retrieving specific information as well. Spyware does not respect privacy as information is transmitted without consent.

Adware: Adware is advertising supported software. It can be downloaded free from the web but carries banner advertisements or links that attempt to create revenue for the company. It usually installs components on your computer that transmit marketing information to central servers which in some programs is then used to tailor the advertising presented for increased effectiveness. The main difference between Adware and Spyware is that Adware usually contains a disclosure that reveals exactly which information is being collected and how it is used.

Malware: This term has been shortened from "malicious software" and is usually applied to cover a wide range of 'hostile' software such as Viruses, Trojan Horses and Worms. It is software that is designed specifically to damage or disrupt a system, files or its components.

Virus: A virus is a manmade program or piece of code that causes an unexpected, usually negative, event. Viruses are often disguised games or images with clever marketing titles such as "Me, nude." Worm: Computer Worms are viruses that reside in the active memory of a computer and duplicate themselves. They may send copies of themselves to other computers, such as through email or Internet Relay Chat (IRC). Trojan Horse: A Trojan horse program is a malicious program that pretends to be a benign application; a Trojan horse program purposefully does something the user does not expect. Trojans are not viruses since they do not replicate, but Trojan horse programs can be just as destructive. Many people use the term to refer only to non-replicating malicious programs, thus making a distinction between Trojans and viruses.

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