What is Greyware? The anatomy of Greyware

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In between normal software and outright malware such as viruses there is a category of programs which many users don’t want on their computers because they are annoying such as is the case with ads and pop-ups, track your surfing habits or do other things computer users don’t want or are afraid of. Greyware (grayware) is not limited to adware and spyware, but these are the two most common types of potentially unwanted programs as dialers are being extinct due to broadband Internet.

Grayware is different from malware in two aspects. Firstly, greyware does not cause harm to your computer or alter data as would be the case of a virus for example, and, secondly, users, or the computer owners have consented to have grayware installed although the opt-in might have been deeply buried in an End User License Agreement (EULA). Thus, with the exception of employee monitoring programs, also referred to as commercial keyloggers, can greyware usually be managed in Control Panel – Add/Remove Programs.

Recent years have seen a shift in how anti-virus programs deal with greyware. Nowadays, spyware and similar modules have been integrated into the top anti-virus products such as, for instance, Webroot AntiVirus with AntiSpyware, and alert you in case of a greyware infection. Some programs may even quarantine grayware right away so that to run such a potentially unwanted application you have to remove them from the quarantine. Vista and Windows 7 users are additionally protected against some pieces of greyware by the OS integrated Windows Defender.

The term grayware, or greyware in British English, has been largely replaced by PUP which stands for potentially unwanted programs. As a best practice against PUPs it is recommended paying attention to the install screens of a program and look for strange add-ons like search bars for example. If you can un-tick such components. Else, you may want to ask yourself if you really want to install such a program onto your system. Remember that grayware is often hidden in EULAs so, as a matter of fact, you may actually need to at least skim them. Updated anti-virus software and a patched operating system will be further helpful to prevent grayware or potentially unwanted software from entering your systems.


  • Author’s own experience