Spyware - Online
"Spyware, adware and malware - oh, my!" Like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz when she had her hands full with lions, tigers and bears, in today's digital world the wild animals are more likely to be lurking in cyberspace - where they can be just as vicious.
Often confused with adware, spyware is one of the newest scourges to afflict PC users everywhere. This malicious software is sneaky, unwanted, and often impossible to get rid of. Adware, on the other hand, is one of the more popular marketing techniques used by advertising firms to promote their products and services; rarely malicious, adware can just be a pain in the ROM.
It's a fine line of distinction, because many adware programs use spyware in order to obtain information about users. On the other hand, spyware is harmful software that installs itself on your computer solely to track your habits, spyware can read the emails you send, record which Web sites you're browsing and what you're buying, and sometimes spyware will even go so far as to steal your personal information - names, addresses, credit card numbers.
That's where spyware gets scary. The issue has become so worrisome that Congress is starting to debate whether or not to install legislation that would regulate the practice of using adware and spyware. Some marketing companies pay programmers and servers to design and publish spyware solely to track the widest possible market of potential consumers. Other times, programmers, acting alone, are digging up your personal information for their own malicious purposes.
So how does spyware get in? Well, it can hop a ride with a valid program such as the music file-sharing Kazaa. Or it can disguise itself as another program. Spyware is so sneaky, in fact, that it will sometimes install itself right into your computer without you doing anything to provoke it!
Fortunately, there are ways to protect your computer against the invasion of adware and spyware. Free anti spyware protection programs are available for conscientious users to download; these programs will block, detect and remove known adware and spyware programs. Or you can take that extra step and purchase a subscription-only anti spyware program.
If you're reading this, you're already taken the first step - education is the key to prevention. Read on to learn about the different types of adware and spyware, the threats they present, and what you can do to prevent these pests from infiltrating your PC and compromising your security. You deserve to be safe.