What is spyware?

Monday, May 18th, 2009 | laptops, security

The term spyware is used to describe a programme that is put on your laptop to gather information about you without your knowledge and consent – this information is then relayed to advertisers or other interested parties.  The important thing to note about spyware is that it harvests information about you without your consent – this is what makes it so objectionable.

Spyware could affect you in various ways.  It could:

  • secretly monitor your internet surfing habits and sites you visit
  • collect all sorts of personal information about you, such as passwords
  • interfere with your control of your computer settings
  • install additional software
  • redirect web accesses
  • detect credit card details when you do internet shopping.

How would you know if your laptop is infected?  Your laptop may act in a strange way – look out for these tell-tale signs:

  • pop-up advertisements appear even when you are not using the internet
  • the page your browser first opens to changes by itself and you find it difficult to change it back to what it was
  • a new toolbar appears in your browser and you can’t get rid of it
  • your laptop becomes sluggish
  • your laptop unexpectedly freezes.

While surfing the internet, and clicking on some options of a pop-up window, spyware may be secretly loaded onto your laptop.  It could also be installed on your machine when you download material such as music or video files.

Protect your laptop by using anti-spyware.  Of course, the best form of protection is to avoid down-loading spyware programmes.  Remember a few basic rules.

Only download programs from web sites you trust; be wary of free music and movie file-sharing programmes.

Read all security warnings, license agreements, and privacy statements associated with any software you download.  Buried in a licence agreement may be a disclaimer saying that information about you will be passed on to another party.

Never click “agree” or “OK” to close a window. Instead, click the red “x” in the corner of the window to close it.

Be careful where you click!

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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4 Comments to What is spyware?

Mike Summers
Monday, 18 May, 2009

This is extremely important, extremely valuable information; particularly for those unfamiliar with daily laptop use. I’d like to highlight one point you make once again because it’s so very important: “Never click “agree” or “OK” to close a window. Instead, click the red “x” in the corner of the window to close it.” Many a laptop has been destroyed or infected with spyware or other computer viruses by failing to do this. So thank you Kobus, this is a great post for your readers.

Albie
Tuesday, 19 May, 2009

Spyware – a good wheelbarrow full of “beware” from Kobus. Thank you !!

I will take note. My antivirus program is updated 2x a day and the spyware update is part of it. So, no “Bonny and Clyde” must be able to visit my laptop.

Once a gain thanks for the warning “signs”.

Albie

Mark C
Tuesday, 19 May, 2009

Some people download cracks for expensive programs they cannot afford. These make the programs work, but what else do they do? The sites from which they are downloaded are ridden with Spyware, malware and viruses. The free version of AVG offers some protection against Viruses, Spyware, Adware and Trojans. It also has a link scanner for when you use various search engines.

Just today I noticed some strange activity on my mem stick. At some or other PC it contracted a virus. Besides having a backup, I copied my files to my laptop using Linux and then deleted the suspicious files. Under Windows I scanned it with AVG and found some nasties still lurking on it. AVG deleted everything leaving only about 10 files behind. Only one other thing to do – format the mem stick.

Lesson learnt today? Don’t just tell other people what to do…follow your own advice. Do it yourself too.

Malcolm
Wednesday, 20 May, 2009

I’ve had so many people tell me that they think they’ve got a virus, but it turns out to be spyware slowing down or messing up their PC. Then they tell me that they don’t understand how they got it, because they do have anti-virus.
We need to protect ourselves against both virusses and spyware. Some anti-virus packages have anti-spyware built in, but many don’t.
Try running Spybot Search & Destroy (www.safer-networking.org) to see what nasty things are secretly running on your PC.

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