Spyware is a general term used for software that performs certain behaviors such as
advertising, collecting personal information, or changing the configuration of your
computer, generally without appropriately obtaining your consent. You might have
spyware or other unwanted software on your computer if:
Spyware is often associated with software that displays advertisements (called adware)
or software that tracks personal or sensitive information. That does not mean all
software which provides ads or tracks your online activities is bad. For example, you
might sign up for a free music service, but "pay" for the service by agreeing to
receive targeted ads. If you understand the terms and agree to them, you may have
decided that it is a fair tradeoff. You might also agree to let the company track your
online activities to determine which ads to show you.
- You see pop-up advertisements even when you're not on the Web.
- The page your Web browser first opens to (your home page) or your browser search
settings have changed without your knowledge.
- You notice a new toolbar in your browser that you didn't want, and find it difficult to get rid of.
- Your computer takes longer than usual to complete certain tasks.
- You experience a sudden rise in computer crashes.
Other kinds of unwanted software will make changes to your computer that can be
annoying and can cause your computer slow down or crash. These programs have the
ability to change your Web browser's home page or search page, or add additional
components to your browser you don't need or want. These programs also make it very
difficult for you to change your settings back to the way you originally had them.
These types of unwanted programs are also often called spyware.
The key in all cases is whether or not you (or someone who uses your computer)
understand what the software will do and have agreed to install the software on your computer.
There are a number of ways spyware or other unwanted software can get on your system.
A common trick is to secretly install the software during the installation of other
software you want such as a music or video file sharing program. Whenever you are
installing something on your computer, make sure you carefully read all disclosures,
including the license agreement and privacy statement. Sometimes the inclusion of
unwanted software in a given software installation is documented, but it may appear at
the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.
Adware is similar to spyware, but it generally asks you before installing itself and collects less
personally identifiable data about you. At the same time, these can slow your computer down, cause your system
to be unstable, and even open the door to hackers. Your PC can catch spyware just from visiting particular Web sites,
or from installing certain freeware and shareware. Several examples can enter your computer through vulnerabilities
in the IE browser and Windows, although some can also burrow in through other browsers, OSes, and applications such
as instant messaging clients.
Adware is basically any program that is intended to support advertising revenue. In fact, this breed of software started
out as a legitimate concept. The idea was that if advertisers sponsored a software program, then users could enjoy it
for free. In practice, however, the concept has evolved and taken a rather sinister turn.
It is possible for adware programs to be installed on your hard drive without your knowledge as a result of visiting a
website. In this way, adware easily finds its way onto the computers of innocent and unsuspecting users. Once on your
computer, it can monitor internet use and pass information on to a third party. It can also make you the unwilling
recipient of tons of "targeted" junk mail, or spam. The reason it is targeted is that the adware will have been
monitoring your surfing habits and recording everything you do, or are interested in, on the Internet.
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How to prevent spyware
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