Computer spyware could be compromising your security, as well as the reason why your computer is operating so slowly.
Spyware is a type of computer program that attaches itself to the operating system. Once there, it steals your processing power and tracks your internet habits. It can nag you with unwanted sales offers or try to get you to visit a specific website. Some computer experts believe that as many as 80% of personal computers have some sort of spyware hiding on them.
What is Spyware
Contrary to popular perception, spyware is not technically a computer virus. Computer viruses are designed to replicate themselves over and over again, spreading form one computer to any it is connected with. It may also be designed to destroy personal files or the entire operating system.
In contrast, spyware isn’t designed to harm your computer. Instead it is any program that runs in the background of your computer without permission and makes unwanted changes. The damage is a by-product, not its main mission.
How You Get Spyware
Spyware can infect your computer from an action that you perform, such as installing a software package or clicking on a popup. Often, spyware uses trickery to get you to install them by giving you fake alert messages.
How Spyware Can Sneak On Your PC
- Piggybacking onto other software – Some applications install spyware with their installation procedure. You should read the installation list closely, particularly if you are using a free version of the software.
- Unsafe Downloads – In some cases, a popup window or website will try to download spyware onto your computer. You may receive a warning asking if it is ok, however, if you do not have a reputable computer security program installed you may not even receive a warning.
- Add-ons for your browser – Add-ons, modules, or plugins, are designed to enhance your browser. While they may do what they are intended to do, these will often include spyware as part of the deal. In other cases they may be nothing but pure spyware. Some of these applications can be very difficult to remove once installed.
- Anti-spyware that’s… not – This is one of the worst tricks in the book. It tells you that it will remove spyware; all the while it is downloading spyware of its own.
What Spyware Does
Spyware can do numerous things once it is installed. Generally, it will run a program in the background that will steal memory and processing power. It can also create pop-up ads that slow down your web browser. It could reset your homepage to an ad or redirect your web searches to show only results that benefit it.
Spyware can also cause your computer to have difficulties connecting to the internet. In its worst form, spyware will record your personal information, such as passwords, private information, and websites that you visit. It can also change your dial-up connections, reset firewall settings, and prevent you from removing it.
The reason spyware is created isn’t always clear. Often it can try to pad the traffic statistics for an advertiser to help them generate more revenue. It can also be used to steal affiliate credits by taking credit for sending you to a particular website.
How to Protect Your Computer Against Spyware
If protecting your computer security is important to you, then you will need to look for ways to protect yourself against spyware. Here are some tactics to protect your computer:
- Spyware scanner. You can use a trustworthy spyware scanner to detect and remove spyware. There are several reliable free programs available, and they work in the same manner that anti-virus software does. You may have to remove the spyware yourself once it has been detected, or the program may be able to remove it for you.
- Pop-up blockers. Pop-up blockers are designed to block pop-up windows so they can’t open. You can set it up so you get a warning message when a pop-up has attempted to open, and you can choose to allow pop-up windows from trusted sources.
- Disable Active-X. Many spyware applications use Active-X to run, and you can choose to disable this function. However, this can interfere with the functionality of some websites that use Active-X legitimately.
- Download and install only trustworthy software. Always be suspicious when you are asked to install something on your computer. If you don’t recognize it, don’t download it. If it is a trustworthy application, you should be able to go back and download it later if you really need it.
- Use “X” to exit. Avoid clicking “cancel” or “no thanks” on any suspicious pop-ups, particularly those that are designed to look like a fake warning. Either use the red X in the right-hand corner, or use the close window keystroke combination to close out the window to avoid the installation of spyware.