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Online Threats - Spyware

What is spyware?

Spyware Spyware is a term used for any programs, cookies or registry entries that secretly gather information about your online activity. These programs are used to transmit data to companies interested in using it for advertising, but the Anti-spyware Coalition reports that spyware is becoming increasingly malicious and being deployed in a more stealthy fashion, using methods that are difficult to detect. Many people consider spyware an invasion of privacy.

Where does spyware come from?

Spyware distributors often bundle their software with other software, often from shareware applications or downloads on file-sharing services like Kazaa, Limewire or Morpheus, screensaver download sites, widgets and porn sites. They also rely on security holes and scams to spread their unwanted programs.

How does spyware affect my computer?

Many people consider spyware to violate their privacy, and it certainly can be a nuisance. Spyware can install without your consent, open dangerous security holes and reinstall after being uninstalled. In addition to potentially damaging your system, you may get annoying pop up ads, be exposed to objectionable material, experience a slowdown or have conflicts with other programs. Excessive spyware on a computer may lead to frequent crashes or hangs.

How do I protect myself from spyware?

Prevention is the best method for protecting yourself online. Make yourself aware of new threats and practice safe surfing.

  • Run anti-spyware and anti-virus programs to clean your computer
  • Ensure that your browser and operating system have the latest security patches
  • Enable the automatic updates on your software if offered
  • Set your browser security and privacy levels higher
  • Change your downloading habits and use extreme caution if you frequent peer-to-peer services. It is difficult, if not impossible, to verify that the source of the files is trustworthy.
  • Don't click on a pop up ads. They're like Tribbles—they keep multiplying!
  • Use the reputation rating checker at the top of WOT pages to see a site's security scorecard

See also Adware, Browser exploits, Internet fraud, Malware, Phishing,and Spam.