Imagine something that follows you home and sets itself up in your house. It eats your food, enjoys your drinks, reads everything you bring home or purchase. It runs up your phone bills and no matter where you go, it can follow you and takes notes on everything you do.
Generically labeled spyware, your stealth visitor is a program or set of programs designed to track your Internet activity. And, while it hasn't gone as far as above, it can and will make your life uncomfortable.
The most benign form of spyware simply takes note of what types of websites you visit and communicates the information to its source. For advertisers, this adware form of spyware allowed them to only send advertisements you were likely to be interested in.
The theory being that it saved wasting anyone's time on products you wouldn't likely care about or want to buy. Of course, that was the theory. The practice has become one of abuse, with so many packaged adware or spyware programs downloaded, you may never know who is watching.
While there are different viruses that act spyware and render malicious damage to your PC, bandwidth and sometimes your modem, spyware may take the same format and render similar damage.
Most spyware is installed after downloading some type of free program or attachment from someone you don't know. Sophisticated processes can hide in . dll files and be incredibly difficult to remove even for spyware zapper programs.
The initial idea behind spyware or adware may not have been so bad. However, they will take up lots of valuable CPU and RAM space on your machine, clogging your Internet bandwidth, which can create noticeable delays when you are doing normal day-to-day activities. It can slow down reboot processes because of adding unwanted programs to your start up menu.
Those downfalls are just what happens with the programs not designed to hijack your browser, point it at *** sites, download *** ographic material, steal your address books, stored credit card information or create a waypoint for hacking into other's machines.
Spyware is a very real villain in the cyber world. The majority of computer and Internet users do not believe these types of programs affect them, yet more often than not; they have hopefully been protected by firewalls and anti-virus software that combat them.
Avoiding irresponsible net behavior, such as downloading programs or files from an unknown sender, the taking of free offers of packaged software, including games, giveaways, software and utilities may prove detrimental to the life and function of your machine. Many of these packaged programs carry hidden within their walls spyware of some type.
So whether it is designed to discover which web merchants you visit most often or what credit card information you have stored on your machine, spyware is a very real threat in a world where the Internet is seemingly as important to everyday activity as a pair of shoes. The best advice is to be aware, in addition to installing anti-virus software with firewall.
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Tom Jenson has worked in software development for 20 years. He's seen spyware develop from an occasional problem, to a daily, hourly threat to all pc's. He made it a mission to research these threats, and work out how best to combat them. Now this series of article helps others protect their computers too.