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Free Software, What Is The Real Price ?
By Draac - 04-12-01

You just downloaded some free software off the internet, pretty cool, something for nothing, so you might think. Although you will not be paying for the software in dollars, many times there is a price to pay for using this software. The cost comes as adware and/or spyware that gets loaded onto your computer when you install the free software.

What is adware and spyware ? These are little programs installed onto your computer may collect personal information from your computer, expose your computer to attack, steal data, or take over your computer. In my opinion these types of programs are an invasion of your privacy but this is what you must put up with to use some of these free software programs. Many of these free software programs will offer a pay version of their product without the adware/spyware on them (so much for the freebie).

Not all free software programs available on the internet have these adware/spyware programs on them just waiting for you to install. There is a tool up on the internet to check to see if the software you are planning on downloading have these adware/spyware programs present within them. Go to Spychecker and type in the name of the software and run the program. It will show you whether or not there is adware/spyware present on the software. Then it is up to you whether you would like to download it or not.

What do you do if you have already installed a piece of software that might have these adware/spyware programs present within them ? There is a very handy tool called Ad-Aware that you can download for free and run to check your computers files for adware. If Ad-Aware finds such files it will allow you to delete them off your computer. These adware files can remain on your computer even if you uninstall the software program itself. Just to let you know, deleting these adware/spyware files off your computer will probably stop the free software you download from working, it could even stop other programs on your pc that have nothing to do with the free software download, so be careful what files you remove.

Some adware/spyware programs need special attention to remove them from your computer system. There are help sites on the internet to assist you in removing these files. Counterexploitation provides a very good section on adware/spyware and how to remove these files. Also, a simple search for "aware or "spyware" in a good search engine like Google will yield many informational sites on this subject.

Spyware programs are also sometimes labeled appropriately as a "trojan horse", you remember the Greek tale from your history books. The castle was presented with a gift of a large wooden horse. The gift was graciously accepted and brought in through the secure gates of the castle walls. Once the beautiful wooden horse had breached the gates and was safely inside the castle walls, the soldiers would then emerge from the wooden horse to infiltrate the castle. Do you see the similarities with the wooden horse and these free software programs with their added adware/spyware ? Once the software program has been taken into your secure computer by installing it, it may bring forth many unwelcomed programs to infiltrate your computer system.

These trojan horse type programs can also be delivered to your computer system by way of small programs in an email. Watch out for any type of .exe file that comes to you in an email. Running these .exe programs can embed a trojan horse type program on to your computer causing all kinds of problems. A good virus program running on your computer like Symantic or McAfee should catch the trojan horse but be sure to keep these virus programs up to date, new trojan horses are being created all the time.

So the lesson to be learned from this article can be summed up in a single, classic line from history, "Beware Of Greeks Bearing Gifts" ! Don't open your computer's gates and willingly bring in something that could be potentially harmful to your system. Do some research before you download and install free software, then decide if you would like it running on your computer. As I stated above, not all free software on the internet has adware/spyware waiting to jump out at you. It's up to you to take precautions and protect your computer's environment.

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