The Skinny on Spyware
Spyware is a term used for a very broad category of malware. It is used to describe any type of malicious software like Trojans, keyloggers, tracking cookies, rootkits or any type of spying on the unsuspecting computer user. Some of these malware applications can be used to steal a user's identity, clean out the user's bank account, ruin the user's credit and enable a stalker to invade the user's life. Spyware has evolved to be called crimeware!
If you never download free programs from the Internet you may think you are safe from spyware, but ‘ain’t necessarily so’. Some websites can plant it on your pc without you even knowing it. Spyware will ‘phone home’ & tell the originator just what you’ve been doing and where you have been surfing. Very naughty! There are so many spyware programs out there it is impossible for me to name them all, especially since more pop up every day!
One way spyware can sneak onto your computer is by not reading the EULA that is nearly always on the first screen when you install a program (You know, that place where you have to agree to the license.) Better start reading it, as spyware companies are putting some pretty bad stuff there, & if you don't read it, you will end up being sorry!
If you make a habit of clicking on links in emails, you could be inviting something besides a web page. You could get a virus, but are just as likely to get a spyware app. Unless you have some protection against this type of malware, you may never know when it happens.
A good place to find out about spyware and how you can unknowingly get it, is at PC Pitstop.
Ok, now what do you do about spyware? First you install a personal firewall that will let you know when the spyware is trying to phone home. Then you can block it from accessing the Internet. Then you get some spyware scanners that will remove the 'spies'.
Another thing about spyware, it can cause your computer to crash. Someone in one of my online groups was having a major problem with his pc. He could not get Internet Explorer to work and a lot of his other applications were not working. He was about to format his computer & reinstall Windows. He probably would have reinstalled Windows, but couldn't find his Windows CD. (That's another story!) Someone suggested he check his computer for virus and spyware. No virus found, but almost 50 spyware files were found. After removing all of the spyware his computer worked just fine!
Spyware can turn your computer into a nice doorstop (nothing will work) if you aren't diligent against the invasion, so keep those spyware scanners updated and run them often!
Facebook can be dangerous as well. Sometimes members may get their password stolen and the hacker plants a bad link. Unsuspecting friends may click the link and 'Bam!, they have spyware! A friend had this happen, so better not check those links in Facebook!
Remember this! A computer does what a user tells it to do within the capability of the computer. If a user clicks a bad link, the computer obeys and will generally override any installed security programs. So be careful about clicking on links, you may just be inviting spyware to come live on your computer!