Cue the spy theme music. Pulse- pound music plays over the scene of a Cold War era suburb. Outside a row of cookie- cutter houses , a devastatingly handsome man and his mysterious and shapely cohort (who has a Luger in her fishnets) sneak up on a lit window. Inside, the room is warm, cozy, and full of minivan dads. And wait, there you are, mousing away on a computer.
That's what spyware is all about, right? International intrigue!
Sadly, it's not that exciting. No one is interested in the soccer-league spreadsheet on your Dell or whose turn it is to bring the orange slices to next Sunday's game.
Spyware is software. And it's not written and distributed to pursue some fancy spy agency agenda, such as finding out the color of Fidel Castro's shower curtain. It's mostly written so its authors can find out about you, where you live, what you like to do on your computer, and where you go on the Web. Why do they care? Because they can make money from that information.
Now there's nothing wrong with earning a living, but spyware makers do it in a nasty underhanded way that is generally immoral, sometimes illegal, and definitely annoying.
I like the way that my friend (and famed security guru) Steve Gibson, president of Gibson Research Corp. and owner of www.grc.com, once described spyware:
Steve is the guy who coined the term spyware when he first caught a program chattering from his computer back to a server on the Internet. He's a notorious James Bond character in the geek world. And while Steve's spy wear is jeans and a T-shirt most days, he probably would look great in a tux.