Adware and Spyware – What are they ?

What if you bought a music CD and every five minutes a voice came on and asked you to get a new credit card, or to change your mobile service provider, or to earn $2032 per hour just from home? What if your music listening habits were constantly being monitored? And if the force behind the voice caused your CD player to eventually go kaput? Translate that to the world that is the Internet, and what you have is adware and spyware.

What are they?

Essentially, “adware” is an abbreviation for advertising-supported software. Adware comes bundled with some commercial software which, upon installation, installs packages that download advertising material to your computer and display them. These ads are usually displayed when the user is using the original software application. However, this is not always the case. As it becomes increasingly pervasive on your computer, adware begins to pop up ads even when you aren’t using the original software application. And that’s when it gets really irritating.

Spyware, on the other hand, is irritating right from the beginning. It gets its name from the fact that it installs itself and performs (often malicious) operations on the user’s computer without his knowledge. It is intentionally designed to stealthily install itself and monitor the user’s activity, accessing information that can easily be used to someone’s  profit. Essentially, spyware, once on your computer, is used to transmit personal data to a third-party that will use it for a purpose you did not sanction.

Spyware shouldn’t be confused with viruses or worms, as a spyware package is not intended to replicate itself.


Cartoon virus

Courtesy : scottgbrooks

How Do They Attack?

Adware, spyware, and for that matter, any malware, can attack in a variety of ways.

Adware Attacks

As mentioned earlier, adware is usually bundled with a commercial software. It can install itself on your computer either with your permission or without your knowledge when you install the software package. Milder forms of adware are also present in the form of pop-up (and the increasingly common, pop-under) banners that pop up when you visit certain sites. These ads, sometimes referred to as “Java traps,” open up in several mini-windows—each time a window is closed by the user, code that spawns another window is activated. Programmers sometimes add adware to their software packages in order to recover some of the cost of developing the package.

If the package is freeware then the adware is used to make up for the entire cost of development. Shareware packages also sometimes carry adware that is activated once the trial period is over. Adware can have several negative effects on your computer. It generally slows it down since it gobbles up some of your system’s RAM. It also, to a large extent, slows down your Internet connection, as a lot of bandwidth can be used to download ad content.

Funny ads

Fake ads to attract attention.

Adware is generally licensed content, and therefore usually (though not always) requires the user’s permission before being installed on the user’s computer. It collects information about how one is using one’s computer and the content transmitted therein, and based on this, displays “relevant” ads in your browser. The free versions of certain browsers, like Opera, used to support adware. Come P2P clients, such as KaZaA, have adware (for example, Gator, TopSearch, etc.) that install on your computer.

However, there are very few examples of such “good” adware. Good adware allows you to uninstall it whenever you like. The other type of adware installs itself on your computer without your permission. Usually, sites with explicit content install such packages onto your computer. These could eventually “hijack” your browser, causing your screen to get filled with more and more pop-ups.


Spyware Attacks

Spyware is intended to gather information about a computer user without that user’s permission and knowledge. There are different levels of information that spyware intends to collect from one’s computer. The milder versions collect data about the user’s Internet usage and sends it to, say, an online advertising agency, who will then point your browser towards advertising content (read tons of pop-ups). The harsher versions of spyware can take more personal information from your Internet history such as credit card numbers and passwords.

Spyware is usually developed by individuals who want to infiltrate computers and use it to their profit. Spyware, once installed on your computer, can drastically slow down its performance, since it consumes a large amount of RAM; with every subsequent browser function, it slows down your computer further. But how does spyware get installed on your computer? Well, you don’t have to visit a pornography site to be attacked by spyware. These days, spyware has pervaded to sites with not only explicit content, but also to sites with other accessible Web content, including downloads from sources that aren’t legitimate.

Though it may seem pretty cool to have been able to get some really expensive pirated software off a warez site, you are almost certainly going to be open to spyware as you do it. The same goes for some P2P clients (like Kazaa, BearShare, and Morpheus). Spyware can get installed on your computer when you install certain software, through the ActiveX controls of malicious Web sites, or even through pop-up advertising. ActiveX is a technology used by Microsoft IE, and it allows different applications—or parts of them—that you installed on your computer to be accessed by your browser to display content. Some spyware developers are particularly cunning, disguising their spyware programs as spyware removal programs, thereby fooling users into downloading more spyware.

Spyware programs are getting more malicious by the day. They could install a variety of application DLLs on your computer that allow hackers to snoop on what you’re doing. These DLLs can do a variety of things to your computer—monitor your keystrokes on or offline, access your word processor, hijack your Web browser, display advertisements, and more. And some spyware leaves your computer even more open to attack from other spyware.

Gator basically displays advertising on the computer on which it is installed. It also installs a host of other applications like GotSmiley, Dashbar, and more, which further slow down your computer.


NFC Demystified: Just a matter of touch?


First of all, NFC stands for Near Field Communication. It is a technology for wireless transfer of data between two devices. If that sounds a lot like BlueTooth or WiFi, that is because it is a similar.

NFC has its roots in RFID or Radio Frequency Identification. RFID tags are like bar-codes that don’t need to be scanned, but merely placed near an RFID reader. An RFID chip—which by the way can be smaller than a grain of rice—can be read by an RFID reader without the need for contact, so if a shopping mall were to tag everything via RFID, all a shopper would have to do is pass their shopping bag / trolley near an RFID reader, and all the products could automatically billed.

An RFID tag is essentially a chip storing some data which gets activated by an RFID reader. The radio waves from the RFID reader are intercepted by the RFID tag, and these are enough to power the device. The tag uses the power it gets from the RFID reader to send back its own radio message with the data it stores—or it could just have a small battery. In this case an RFID reader is a passive device that sends the same bits of data it is stored no matter what.

What if you were to create a similar system where two devices could communicate using similar means? Where both devices could work as both a tag and a reader to pass along small messages. Well, NFC is exactly such a system. NFC is in fact compatible with RFID, and you could have NFC tags, just like RFID tags.

Many experts say NFC really is fundamentally secure by virtue of its extremely short range. In order to snag your NFC signal, a hacker would need to be very close to you. Uncomfortably close. In other words, you’d know they were there. And unless it was a very intimate friend of yours, you’d likely not be happy about it.




Bluetooth Low Energy

RFID compatible

ISO 18000-3 active active

Standardisation body

ISO/IEC Bluetooth SIG Bluetooth SIG

Network Standard

ISO 13157 etc. IEEE 802.15.1 IEEE 802.15.1

Network Type

Point-to-point WPAN WPAN


not with RFID available available


< 0.2 m ~100 m (class 1) ~50 m


13.56 MHz 2.4–2.5 GHz 2.4–2.5 GHz

Bit rate

424 kbit/s 2.1 Mbit/s ~1.0 Mbit/s

Set-up time

< 0.1 s < 6 s < 0.006 s

Power consumption

< 15mA (read) varies with class < 15 mA (read and transmit)


NFC technology is mainly aimed to be used in mobile phones. NFC uses both write and read technology. The connection is established when two NFC devices are bought within the distance of 4 centimeters.

NFC chart


As you can guess from the name, and from its ancestry NFC is for communication between devices placed very close by, distances much closer than those required by BlueTooth or WiFi. In fact devices usually have to be touching or placed a few centimetres apart. While this might seem like a disadvantage, and most certainly can be in many situations, it also has its positive sides. While BlueTooth and WiFi require that a device be paired, or share a mutual password, NFC has no such requirements.

Authentication is assumed based on the fact that the devices are nearly touching, which would require both device users to choose to do so. In fact NFC can be used as an alternative to entering long WiFi keys or traditional means of pairing devices using BlueTooth. For example if you have a WiFi point that supports NFC, it could automatically transmit the WiFi key to any device that is placed very near it. Or, rather that start a tedious BlueTooth pairing process, you could simply tap two phones together and they would use that gesture as consent for a BlueTooth pairing. This particular feature is in fact available in Android in the form of Android Beam. While NFC can be used for data transfer, it can be quite slow for large amounts of data, especially when compared to BlueTooth or WiFi.

So Android Beam uses NFC and take advantage of its convenience in quick communication over short distances, and uses that to authenticate the devices so that that it can use quicker technologies for the actual transfer of data. As such it can transfer anything, music, videos, or the state of an application, such as tabs open in a browser, the saved state of a game etc. NFC is also finding many uses in places where RFID was used earlier.

NFC isn’t a newfangled technology, but it’s just now beginning to filter into mainstream products like smartphones. With an NFC chip and antenna, you can use your smartphone to make contactless payments at NFC retail terminals, parking meters, taxis and many other places.


Key Benefits of NFC

NFC provides a range of benefits to consumers and businesses, such as:

  • Intuitive: NFC interactions require no more than a simple touch
  • Versatile: NFC is ideally suited to the broadest range of industries, environments, and uses
  • Open and standards-based: The underlying layers of NFC technology follow universally implemented ISO, ECMA, and ETSI standards
  • Technology-enabling: NFC facilitates fast and simple setup of wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.)
  • Inherently secure: NFC transmissions are short range (from a touch to a few centimeters)
  • Interoperable: NFC works with existing contactless card technologies
  • Security-ready: NFC has built-in capabilities to support secure applications

For example it can be used as an alternative to ID cards. One up and coming use is as a means of payment. Google Wallet for example allows one to initiate payments by simply tapping your phone on a payment device. Your financial details can be stored on Google Wallet, and when you initiate a transfer using NFC, Google Wallet only needs your authorization for payment, and handles the rest. Games can use NFC to initiate a multiplayer gaming session and use WiFi or BlueTooth for the actual game data. Tapping mobile and tablets, or putting them in close proximity makes a lot of sense, but one is likely to have a hard time imagining such a thing working with desktops. Even so, a laptop or desktop fitted with NFC can use that functionality to enable all kinds of useful interactions. You could for example, transfer your browsing session to your tablet / mobile from your laptop / desktop before leaving home. Or sync between you laptop / desktop and mobile / tablet just by using NFC.

NFC is only one technology, with Bluetooth and RFID just as able to strike-up a conversation between two gadgets, but there are distinctions within NFC, too. In comes in both passive and active flavours, including P2P mode (exchanging information, such as business cards or contacts) and SecureElement NFC (where a machine recognises a NFC phone as a bankcard).

You won’t find NFC on many laptops or desktops but it is only a matter of time. Look at how BlueTooth is now common on any laptops and you will see how it is likely to find future laptops fitted with NFC. Desktops usually have neither but are flexible enough to use dongles to add those capabilities. There are tons of imaginative uses for NFC that people have yet to come up with. All one needs to know are the advantages of NFC at your disposal, quick initiation of communication, moderately fast data transfer speeds (around 400 kbit/s) and the possibility of having passive (without battery) items that interact with NFC devices.