Potentially malicious programs are software that might be genuine but they can cause serious damage to the computer system and data, if used with malicious intent. Because these programs are useful to computer users, they cannot be classified as being 100 per cent dangerous or even 100 per cent harmless. In most antivirus software, such potentially malicious programs are not automatically identified. Instead, the user must classify the program as malicious or not. Potentially malicious programs can be classified into three categories, namely; adware, riskware and pornware.
Software that are classified as adware, normally display advertising in form of banners and can be able to redirect search requests to sites that advertise certain products. In most cases, these programs are hard to detect since they are not indicated at the Program menu. Adware can install themselves on the user’s computer in two ways. First, when the person uses shareware and freeware programs containing advertisements. Secondly the adware can be installed in a host computer if the users visit websites that are infected with adware. The adware installs itself on the user’s computer by taking advantage of the web browser’s security loopholes or by use of Trojan programs that are designed to install programs without the consent of the user.
Adware programs pose a threat to users since they are able to hack into the system and collect private data concerning the host computer. Such confidential information includes the user’s IP address, the browser and the operating system used and most visited sites. The other category of potential malicious software is riskware. The term riskware is used to refer to legitimate programs, used for genuine applications but can be used for malicious intentions. This category includes programs such as IRC client programs, downloader programs, dialer programs, password utilities, and various internet services like Web, FTP, Telnet and Proxy. Though these programs are originally safe, they can be used for malicious purposes.
The term pornware is used to refer to computer programs that cause contents that are pornographic in nature to be displayed on the users system. Pornware class includes applications such as Porn-Dialer, Porn-Tool programs and Porn-Downloader. Downloader programs usually uploads pornographic content to the users computer, while Porn-Tool includes utilities that search for and display pornographic material. When pornware programs are installed with the user’s consent, they are not viewed as being malicious. The programs can also be installed without the user’s knowledge especially by other programs taking advantage of security loops in the browser. In order to protect the system from such programs, users must have up to date antivirus programs to detect malicious programs early enough before they cause harm.