Badware is software that fundamentally disregards a user’s choice about how his or her computer or network connection will be used.
Some badware is specifically designed for criminal, political, and/or mischievous purposes. These purposes might include:
- stealing bank account numbers, passwords, company secrets, or other confidential information
- tricking the user into buying something that he or she doesn’t need
- sending junk email (spam), or sending premium text messages from a mobile device
- attacking other computers
- distributing more badware
This type of badware is often referred to as malware. It includes viruses, Trojans, rootkits, botnets, spyware, scareware, and more.
Some badware may not have malicious intentions, but still fails to put the user in control. Consider, for example, a browser toolbar that helps you shop online more effectively but does not mention that it will send a list of everything you buy online to the company that provides the toolbar. In this case, you are unable to make an informed decision about whether to install or use this software. Another example is when you install a piece of software, and that software installs additional software that you weren’t expecting. This can be especially troubling if the additional software does something you dislike or doesn’t uninstall when you remove the original software.
At times, the line between deliberately malicious software and unintentionally bad software can blur. Software creators and distributors can, and should, stay away from this blurry line by using clear messaging and thoughtful product design to keep users in control of their computers and networks.