Are Your Computers Working for You?
Computer security has been in the news a lot recently. Here is a look
at the various types of undesirable computer software.
Malware and spyware
Most computer users are aware of, or may have experienced malware
- malicious software surreptitiously installed on one's computer for the
purpose of stealing. Malware may steal sensitive information such as
credit card numbers and passwords, or may steal computer resources such
as network bandwidth and CPU cycles. Malware facilitates theft, and
that is decidedly bad.
Straddling the line between illegal and legal is spyware -
software that gathers some type of information from the user for
purposes ranging from privacy invasion to market research. If the
information gathered is not particularly sensitive, the severity may be
reduced to phonehomeware.
Adware, nagware, and junkware
More innocuous is adware - software installed on one's computer
for the purpose of serving advertisements to the user. Adware presents
more of an annoyance than anything else. One popular computer operating
system is put out by a large Internet company for the purpose of
displaying advertisements to the user.
Closely related to adware is nagware - software that repeatedly
asks the user to upgrade for a fee, or to subscribe to an on-line
service. A subset of nagware is junkware - unwanted software
that comes pre-installed on a new computer and is immediately removed by
Crippleware, trialware, and DRMware
Somewhat related to junkware is crippleware or trialware -
software that echoes HAL 9000's famous line "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm
afraid I can't do that" when the user asks to open the pod bay
doors. HAL might as well have said "I'm sorry, Dave. You need to
purchase the full version."
Another variant is DRMware - software that refuses to open the
pod bay doors if doing so would infringe on someone else's copyrights.
What do all of these have in common?
They are acting in someone else's interests, and not in the interests of
the owner of the computer.
As a long-time computer user, I run only software that will act in my
interests. I do this by selecting a computer operating system and
applications that are:
Put out by a third-party that has no financial incentive to sell new
hardware or services.
Comprised entirely of open-source software that can be examined and
Allow the user to program the computer to do anything he wants.
As a result, my computers truly are working for me.