What is Spyware?
Spyware is a type of malware that is installed on computers and collects information about users without their knowledge. The presence of spyware is typically hidden from the user. Typically, spyware is secretly installed on the user's personal computer. Sometimes, however, spywares such as keyloggers are installed by the owner of a shared, corporate, or public computer on purpose in order to secretly monitor other users.
While the term spyware suggests software that secretly monitors the user's computing, the functions of spyware extend well beyond simple monitoring. Spyware programs can collect various types of personal information, such as Internet surfing habits and sites that have been visited, but can also interfere with user control of the computer in other ways, such as installing additional software and redirecting Web browser activity. Spyware is known to change computer settings, resulting in slow connection speeds, different home pages, and/or loss of Internet or functionality of other programs. In an attempt to increase the understanding of spyware, a more formal classification of its included software types is captured under the term privacy-invasive software.
Using a Firewall
While most spyware and other unwanted software come bundled with other programs or originate from unscrupulous Web sites, a small amount of spyware can actually be placed on your computer remotely by hackers. Installing a firewall or using the firewall that's built into Windows Vista and Windows XP provides a helpful defence against these hackers.
Updating your Software
If you use Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP, make sure all your software is updated. Visit Microsoft Update to confirm that you have automatic updating turned on and that you've downloaded and installed all the latest critical and security updates.
Surf and download more safely
The best defence against spyware and other unwanted software is not to download it in the first place. Here are a few helpful tips that can protect you from downloading software you don't want:
- Only download programs from Web sites you trust. If you're not sure whether to trust a program you are considering downloading, enter the name of the program into your favourite search engine to see if anyone else has reported that it contains spyware.
- Read all security warnings, license agreements, and privacy statements associated with any software you download.
- Never click "Agree" or "OK" to close a window. Instead, click the red "x" in the corner of the window or press Alt + F4 on your keyboard to close a window.
- Be wary of popular "free" music and film file-sharing programs, and be sure you understand all of the software packaged with those programs.
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