Virtually everyone with a computer has now heard of spyware, but where and when did it rear its ugly head for the first time? Here is a little history...
The word 'spyware' was used for the first time publicly in October 1995. It popped up on Usenet (a distributed Internet discussion system in which users post e-mail like messages) in an article aimed at Microsoft's business model. In the years that followed though, spyware often referred to 'snoop equipment' such as tiny, hidden cameras. It re-appeared in a news release for a personal firewall product in early 2000, marking the beginning of the modern usage of the word.
In 1999, Steve Gibson of Gibson Research detected advertising software on his computer and suspected it was actually stealing his confidential information. The so-called adware had been covertly installed and was difficult to remove, so he decided to counter-attack and develop the first ever anti-spyware program, OptOut.
That's where Lavasoft (now adaware) picked up and Gibson left off. He went on to other projects and Lavasoft became a pioneer in the anti-spyware industry with its signature free, downloadable product Ad-Aware (now adaware antivirus). Lavasoft's paid products soon followed and it is now the anti-spyware provider for 300 million computer users worldwide today.