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Is there a word for software less harmful than malware? In particular,

  1. The software provides functionality you need, and actually it is you who download and install it.
  2. However, it steals your data and uploads it for its own use.
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13  
This is still considered malicious behavior and the term malware still applies. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malware#Data-stealing_malware –  Unreason Aug 2 '11 at 9:48

4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The current buzz word for things less harmful than malware is badware, or in the case you gave spyware would also be appropriate.

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"badware" is any poorly-designed or poorly-executed program that has value to you as the user on its face, but has side effects of any type (such as instability, memory or CPU-hogging, and yes, privacy-stealing features) that make the solution worse than the problem. So, this works and I like it. –  KeithS Aug 2 '11 at 18:22

This is more a computer jargon question than an English question.

Malware is a very general term for software that does bad things. The behavior you described above certainly qualifies as malware. For example, this is exactly what Gator does (the useful thing being that it keeps track of all your passwords for you), and it is universally considered malware. My own father purposely installed Gator to keep track of his passwords for him.

A more specific word that applies in your case is spyware. This is where a program (among whatever other functions it may perform) also reports information about you back to someone else.

Some folks like to refer to any software that does any of the above for the purposes of trying to get you to buy stuff as adware.

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I addition to "Spyware", "Badware"... I'd add Grayware and "Adware" (included in grayware).

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Your question describes software that fits the definition of a Trojan horse, (a specific class of malware).

Trojan horses, (which are often referred to simply as Trojans), are distinguished by two characteristics:

  1. They are built into an application that either provides useful functionality to the user, or at least pretends or purports to do so.

  2. They do not self-replicate, but instead rely on the user to execute a copy on their system.

It is important to note that the terms malware and Trojan horse do not imply any particular severity of malicious behaviour.

According to this site, malware is merely any:

code or software that is specifically designed to damage, disrupt, steal, or in general inflict some other "bad" or illegitimate action on data, hosts, or networks.

I would call your particular type of Trojan horse "a spyware-containing, but otherwise benign Trojan"... However, I don't know of any single word that would accurately convey all of that.

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3  
I'd have to know a bit more about it before calling it a trojan. Really a classic trojan is a file named "runme.exe" ("startrek.exe") that claims to be something cool or fun, but in fact does nothing whatsoever useful (for the user) when actually run. Generally a trojan will not count on getting run twice, but will immediately either do all its harm, or throw open the gates for the real attackers (much like in the Aeneid). –  T.E.D. Aug 2 '11 at 13:47

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