What is Malware? It’s a term used widely throughout the computer industry to describe a wide range of software programs designed to cause harm to computer systems. Sometimes the programs can be harmful for the sake of being harmful, like viruses, worms, and Trojan Horses. Sometimes the programs can be harmful based upon the intent of the software’s creator, such as spyware and key-loggers, the purpose of which is to capture your private or personal information and to allow someone to use or exploit it.

Personally, I consider many kinds of adware to be substantively no different than spyware and other forms of malware in the way they come to be surreptitiously installed on people’s computers, and can impair the normal functioning of those computers. Many of the purveyors of adware will squeal like stuck pigs when you suggest that their software is “spyware,” yet many are incapable of articulating substantive, meaningful differences between their wares and those of less reputable companies. Indeed, for me the similarities between adware and spyware are much greater than the tiny semantic differences that the public relations flacks try to peddle.

The makers of adware, which to my way of thinking is simply spyware in slightly less deceptive packaging, have been increasingly successful in their public relations efforts to put a happier face on their unfair and deceptive trade practices. But I’ve been too deeply steeped in their b.s. to buy it any longer. Like the spammers who claim they’re not sending spam because their product is legal, adware companies have been successful at defining spyware as being the products of criminals, while their software — which behaves nearly identically in too many ways — is somehow completely different.

From this day forward, I will do my best to avoid playing into these semantic games and will try to use the term “malware.” Let me apologize in advance for my inevitable slip-ups, especially in those instances where I may appear to be using “spyware” and “adware” interchangeably. It’s not that I don’t recognize the distinctions between the two terms, its that I think they’re distinctions without differences.

Please know, gentle reader, that my intention is to identify these wretched pieces of software in a manner acceptable in polite company.