Thursday, 29 August 2013

Spyware - What Everyone Needs to Know

What is Spyware?
Spyware is a type of malicious software that is installed on your computer without your consent. It is usually a very small piece of software that installs so quickly you don't even know it. Once installed, it runs in the background undetected. The purpose of spyware is to take partial control of your computer or to intercept data from your computer. Spyware is created by unscrupulous developers who wish to take something from you for their own purposes. What is taken depends on the purpose of the spyware, and could be anything from bandwidth to highly confidential personal information.
Some Examples of what Spyware Does
Some spyware takes control of your computer and can turn it into a "zombie" that is under the control of the programmer. Hijacked computers are often placed into "zombie farms" that include hundreds (or thousands) of other computers that are also under control of the spyware owner. These zombies are often rented to spammers or hackers who use these computers as mail relay agents or in targeted attacks against other websites.

Depending on the creator's intent, some spyware is designed to capture and transmit personal information about you. As you enter information into websites for example, an infected computer might capture your keystrokes and transmit your social security number, bank account numbers, pins, passwords, drivers license number, etc... to an internet thief living across the world. He/she in turn may use this information to steal money or your identity, or might sell the information to other unscrupulous individuals who want it.
As you see, spyware can be very dangerous and it is becoming as prevalent as computer viruses. It is now a recommended computer security practice to use anti-spyware software in conjunction with anti-virus software on every computer that is connected to the internet.
Isn't Spyware a form of Computer Virus?
Not exactly. Spyware is similar to a computer virus in that it exploits computers for personal gain. It differs from a virus though, because it does not replicate to other computers and usually is not designed to destroy data. Anti virus software usually does not detect spyware because it does not contain the characteristics of a virus.
Preventing Spyware
If not using anti spyware software, everyone who uses the internet should periodically run a spyware detector to make sure his/her computer is clean. Most legitimate spyware remover software companies offer a free trial version that will allow you to perform a spyware scan. Companies such as spybot, webroot spy sweeper, spyware doctor, spyware eliminator, pestpatrol and spyware assassin all provide a great tool for detection and removal of spyware.
As with antivirus software, when you purchase anti-spyware software you are entitled to frequent spyware database updates. Regularly checking for and installing these updates is critical to keeping spyware off your computer. New spyware is introduced into the internet on a daily basis and it is important to update your spyware detection software with the latest spyware data definition files. Most good anti-spyware software includes an auto update feature that makes downloading and installing updates very easy.

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