Spyware Information


What is Spyware?

Spyware is a general term used to describe software that performs certain behaviors such as advertising, collecting personal information, or changing the configuration of your computer, generally without appropriately obtaining your consent first.

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 that provides ads or tracks your online activities is bad. For example, you might sign up for a free music service, but you "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.

Other kinds of spyware make changes to your computer that can be annoying and can cause your computer slow down or crash.

These programs can 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.

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 computer. A common trick is to covertly install the software during the installation of other software you want such as a music or video file sharing program.

Whenever you install 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 might appear at the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.

Removing Spyware

Information Technology recommends using the following programs to help remove the "wares."

Windows Defender
Spybot - Search and Destroy
Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition

Avoiding the "wares" like the plague
IT recommends a few preventative measures.

Refrain from downloading "free" software unless you can validate the legitimacy of the source.
Keep your browser up to date, regardless of which browser you use, since many of the "wares" try to exploit browser vulnerabilities.

A "wares" overview
The internet offers so many possibilies: quick access to research, email, network space, and online shopping. But like many things sounding almost-too-good-to-be-true, the internet also plays host to rogue software and other countless irritants. Knowing the facts can empower you to make practical and wise decisions when using the internet.

Yes, the internet contains a wealth of valuable content, but there's also a lot of nasty stuff floating out there often unbeknownst to us. Spyware, adware, and malware are rogue software programs that typically install themselves without a user's consent. Such programs can track a user's computer usage and keystrokes, produce pop-up ads, highjack browser home pages, and execute unwanted system processes causing system instability. Spyware, adware, and malware programs can come packaged with peer-to-peer programs and many other "free" utilities or by visiting web sites that exploit vulnerabilites found in some browsers.

Additional tips to keep spyware from invading

1. Keep a firewall running at all times.
2. Promptly install all Windows updates.
3. Use an anti-spyware tool with real-time protection.
4. Don't open attachments or click links in emails from strangers.
5. Only download software from a trusted source.
6. Don't visit adult sites.
8. Don't click pop-up ads.
9. Always read end-user license agreements.
10. Surf with an alternate web browser like Firefox or Opera.

More sources for information about Spyware...

The Federal Trade Commission has a webpage devoted to alerting consumers about Spyware.

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