Spyware Timeline

First use of Term

  • The etymology of "spyware" is unclear. The first recorded use of the term spyware occurred on October 16, 1995, in a Usenet post that poked fun at Microsoft's business model.

Zone Labs Press Release

  • Spyware later came to refer to espionage equipment such as tiny cameras. It appears that the term was used to refer to this type of monitoring equipment until 1999 when Zone Labs used the term in a press release for its Zone Alarm firewall product.

First Spyware Program

  • 1999 also saw the introduction of the first popular freeware program suspected to include built-in spyware: Elf Bowling. In November of 1999, the popular game spread across the Internet and many users learned with surprise that the program actually transmitted user information back to the game's creator, Nsoft. For many Internet users, "Elf Bowling" provided their first experience with spyware. However, the creators of the program do deny these allegations.

First Anti-Spyware Product

  • In 2000, Gibson Research launched the first anti-spyware product, OptOut. Steve Gibson, the developer of OptOut, described spyware as "any software that employs a user's Internet connection in the background (the so-called 'backchannel') without their knowledge or explicit permission." The term "spyware" thus apparently was used at the outset to refer to software that was installed without the knowledge and consent of users and that operated surreptitiously.


Sharon Wienbar, The Spyware Inferno, C/Net News.com (Aug. 13, 2004), available at http://news.com.com/ The+spyware+inferno/2010-1032_3-5307831.html