For all the damage and harm spyware can cause to both your data, finances and personal identity it’s amazing how few people have actually heard of it. Even worse there are those who are aware of it but take no steps to protect themselves. As a matter of fact most computer users are stunned when you inform them of the potential, and very real, dangers that spyware can pose to themselves and their family. These are exactly the type of user that spyware makers target. The ideal target is somebody who isn’t aware of the threat and even if they are don’t really know what to do about it. How much do you really know about spyware? Be honest with yourself when asking that question.
Spyware is specially designed software that secretly gathers information about you and your Internet browsing preferences. All of this is done silently and without your knowledge or your approval. Once the spyware gathers the required information it then reports it back to the spyware maker (normally a malicious hacker) who then puts this information to use in any number of different ways. This information can be what websites you visited, passwords for your websites or online banking or even your credit card information!
So how does spyware infect your PC? Normally it’s delivered via websites that were setup with that sole purpose – to spread this type of spyware. Most of the time you don’t even need to click on any links on that website – the spyware is automatically downloaded onto your computer. Once downloaded it can do lots of damage. It can record your chatroom conversations, passwords, credit card numbers and most worrying of all it can also be used to download what’s called a trojan virus onto your computer.
What type of websites should you watch out for? Just any website that offers free downloads of anything really but especially pornographic, warez and mp3 type sites. Many of these sites will offer free downloads of recent movies, games or mp3s. You click on the link and nothing happens so you continue on with your day and forget about that site. Suddenly you start receiving tons of junk email, viruses start appearing every day and worse again your credit card starts showing charges for items that you never ordered. Some very clever spyware makers bundle the spyware with shareware applications so what looks like a harmless or even useful free program might actually contain the most lethal types of spyware.
Spyware is also distributed via free software. File sharing applications are often loaded down with spyware (this is how they finance the “free” software) and need to be used with caution. The spyware developers are getting more creative and are starting to distribute movies and mp3s online that require a “special” media player to play them. You follow the URL and download this new media player. Badda bing you just got yourself one serious spyware/virus infection!
One of the first warning signs that your computer has a spyware infection is that the entire computer slows down to a crawl. Surfing the ‘net takes forever and even rebooting the computer seems to take 10 times longer than usual. You may notice that your Internet browser opens up to websites that have pornographic or other adult content also and that you’re plagued with popups for all kinds of rubbish you’re not interested in.
Fortunately, there are several anti-spyware programs that can get rid of spyware. Two of the most popular of these are Lavasoft Adaware and Spybot Search and Destroy. Either of these programs will do a very good job of clearing all that spyware junk from your PC. Spyware cleaners aren’t enough however and you should also download and install a good anti-virus program and also use a firewall program on your computer in future also.
Spyware is far more annoying than just having to close down dozens of popups – it could cost you a lot of money if your credit card or other personal details get stolen from your computer. DO NOT treat spyware as a minor threat – it ain’t!
Most people simply refer to spyware. The reality is that there are many different types of spyware.
What is malware? This question is often asked by computer users who are worried about the security of their equipment and data.
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