What is Scumware?


Scumware is an umbrella term that covers several different types of software that all, in various ways, act, well, scummy. Some scumware will attempt to install itself without your knowledge. It may do this by attempting to install automatically when you visit a particular web page and your browser settings are insufficiently secure (called a drive-by download). It may also install off the web or be bundled with another program and throw up some terms and conditions for you to agree. In this case it may be relying on peoples' tendency to just accept such agreements without reading them. It is worth scanning through these 'click through agreements' to see if there are any sections that might deal with typical actions these programs may take.
Given that many of these applications hope to install unnoticed often not much effort is expended in making the applicatio run efficiently. As such it may lead to your computer running more slowly in addition to whatever effect the scumware is intended to have.

Different types of Scumware

What is Adware

Adware is free or cheap software that supports its development by displaying advertising.
In its mildest form this can be a perfectly valid and not too intrusive business model. In its worst forms it can lead to you having multiple windows popping up frequently to pepper you with ads.
Many forms of adware are also spyware in order to better target the adverts.

What is Spyware

Spyware is a relatively easy definition - it is software that spies on you. In practice this normally means recording some aspect of what you do on your computer (often what websites you visit) and sending that information back to be analysed (often to serve targetted adverts at you).
Not necessarily a big issue. However, given the way some spyware programs try to avoid you knowing that they are installed would you trust them to only be sending back what they say they are sending back?

What is Parasiteware

Many very useful free websites (including this one) only manage to continue to help people thanks to affiliate links paying the hosting bills. Affiliate links are links to, usually related, products for which the website then receives a percentage of any sale resulting from somebody following the link.
Parasiteware is software that intercepts any such link following and substitutes its own affiliate link hence taking the commission away from the website that recommended the product in the first place.
Why should you care? The impact of this is less obvious than with adware or spyware. As noted above though for some free websites it is only the affiliate links that allow them to continue. If you support software that hijacks their commissions next time you need some information from that site it may not be there anymore.