In this paper, we discuss various types of spyware programs, their behaviour, how they typically infect computers, and the propagation of new varieties of spyware programs. In two experiments, we investigate the occurrence and impact of spyware programs found in popular P2P applications. Based on the findings from the empirical investigations, we try to lift the perspective to a more general view on spyware deriving from the theory of (virtual) network effects. In a model, we categorize in what ways spyware might decrease the utility of belonging to a large virtual network. Here, the baseline is that spyware programs intrude systems and networks, but since they profit from user data they also intrude user privacy. In the model, the intrusions are classified as moderate, severe or disastrous. We found that spyware has the potential to overthrow the positive aspects of belonging to a large network, and network owners should therefore be very careful about permitting such programs in applications and on networks. Keywords: Spyware, malware, network effects, P2P. 1
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