What is spyware and how did it get on my PC?

Spyware is any technology or programming on your computer that covertly gathers information; the data is then sold to advertisers or to other interested parties.  The type of information harvested from your computer differs.  Some spyware tracks your system information only; such as your type of Internet connection and type of operating system.  Other spyware collects personal information—such as detailed tracking of your Internet surfing habits, or worse, harvesting of your personal files. 

Spyware is installed without the user's consent (if you give consent for a company to collect your data this is no longer considered spying, so read online data disclosure statements carefully before consenting).  Some people don’t object to general spying that tracks Internet and software trends as long as personal identifying information is not included; others object to any information being taken from their computer without their consent.  Either way, the software or device that gathers the information is called spyware.

Spyware installation on your computer can be initiated by visiting a website, viewing an e-mail message or by clicking a pop-up window.  The download process is unannounced so that you will remain unaware that your computer has accepted spyware.  This deceptive method of filling your computer with tracking software you didn’t request is called a drive-by download.  A simple misspelling of a URL can send you off into a malicious site.

  • Adware and spyware programs, also called malware or trackware, quietly and secretly monitor everything you do online, and can communicate your activities to a third party such as an online advertiser.
  • It is commonly installed on your PC as a hidden addition to a legitimate program, by visiting websites, or through spam email.
  • Unlike a virus, well-written spyware and adware program will never reveal their presence on your PC.
  • Pop-up ad problems, a different homepage that you can't change, and a slower PC or online experience are indications of a spyware problem.
  • Spyware is everywhere: It infects over 75% of Internet-connected computers., No one is immune from spyware infection. Studies have found an average in excess of 25 spyware and adware traces per audit scan with many times in the hundreds.
  • Spyware can seriously disrupt your computer operations, making your computer's performance and Internet access slow to a crawl, and could lead to a corrupt hard drive.
  • Spyware could compromise your privacy, and exposure of private information, usernames and passwords, or, at its worst, identity theft.

Highly Recommended Spy Ware Vendor

Spy Sweeper by Webroot Software (www.webroot.com)
Awarded Editors' Choice in PC Magazine, Spy Sweeper detects and removes more traces of spyware than any other program including; Trojans, adware, keyloggers and system monitors. Regular updates provide timely protection against new threats. Proactive shields monitor and defend against spyware installations and a quarantine feature allows users to safely manage spyware by removing or keeping it, without harming other programs on the computer.

Other Spy Ware Vendors

Ad-Aware by Lavasoft (www.lavasoftusa.com)
Ad-Aware Personal is free for individual use only. For profit business entities, governmental entities, or educational institutions, must purchase a valid end-user license in order to use the software.
Spybot, Search and Destroy (www.safer-networking.org)


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