History and Development of Spyware
Posted by Jackie R. on December 7, 2006
The first recorded use of the term spyware occurred on October 16, 1995 in a Usenet post that poked fun at Microsoft’s business model. Spyware later came to refer to espionage equipment such as tiny cameras. However, in early 2000 the founder of Zone Labs, Gregor Freund, used the term in a press release for the ZoneAlarm Personal Firewall. Since then, computer-users have used the term in its current sense. 1999 also saw the introduction of the first popular freeware program to include built-in spyware: a humorous and popular game called “Elf Bowling” spread across the Internet in November 1999, and many users learned with surprise that the program actually transmitted user information back to the game’s creator, Nsoft.
In early 2000, Steve Gibson of Gibson Research realized that advertising software had been installed on his system, and he suspected that the software was stealing his personal information. After analyzing the software he determined that they were adware components from the companies Aureate (later Radiate) and Conducent. He eventually rescinded his claim that the ad software collected information without the user’s knowledge, but still chastised the ad companies for covertly installing the spyware and making it difficult to remove.
As a result of his analysis in 2000, Gibson released the first anti-spyware program, OptOut, and many more software antidotes have appeared since then. International Charter now offers software developers a Spyware-Free Certification program.
According to an October 2004 study by America Online and the National Cyber-Security Alliance, 80% of surveyed users’ computers had some form of spyware, with an average of 93 spyware components per computer. 89% of surveyed users with spyware reported that they did not know of its presence, and 95% reported that they had not given permission for it to be installed.