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What Is Spyware?

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By Author: Carolyn Clayton
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Do you know what is running on your computer? What it is doing? Who put it there? Why did they put it there? and do they have the right to put it there?

First seen on October 16th 1995; spyware exploits your computer for commercial gain. Nine out of ten computers that have internet use are affected by spyware. So what exactly is this spyware?

Spyware is often downloaded onto your PC when you download other free software. Certain company's place media plug ins, spyware, backdoor santa's and Trojans onto your computer without your permission.
When you see a license agreement for any software you download from the internet read it carefully. Often buried in the licence agreement will be a disclaimer saying that information about you and your browsing habits will be sent to the company's website.

Most spyware does not collect information about you; it is not stealing your name, credit cards or other personal information, however spyware has the ability to do this. The term spyware suggests your behaviour is being monitored but spyware often goes beyond forwarding information about your browsing and spending habits. Spyware can collect various types of information and interfere with user's control of the computer in other ways such as; installing addit software, redirecting your homepage and messing with your web browser activity. Spyware can cause harmful viruses and even change your computer settings creating a slow connection and loss of internet as well as other programmes.

Running anti spyware software is now widely recognised as an element of computer security; but is spyware actually legal? The name spyware often suggests that it is however spyware is not an illegal type of software but there are certain issues that a privacy oriented user may object to and therefore prefer not to use the product. This usually involves the tracking and sending of data and statistics via a server installed on the user's PC and the use of your Internet connection in the background.

In 2005 AOL and the National Cyber Security Alliance performed a spyware study; the results showed that 61% of people had a form of spyware; 92% did not know they had this spyware as 91% of them never gave permission for spyware to be placed on their computer.

2006 saw spyware become of the biggest security threats to computers running Microsoft Windows. Spyware doesn't spread in the manner of viruses as an infected computer doesn't attempt to spread the infection.

Internet cookies can also be considered spyware. If a web site stores information about you in a cookie that you didn't know about; this could be classed as spyware. Also some music CD's allow you to get extra content if you put the CD in your computer and download extra features. This is great but what you don't realise is that you could also be downloading spyware. Although the desirable software itself may do no harm, the bundled spyware does.

You should always read licence agreements when downloading software to minimise your risk of downloading harmful spyware. It is also advised to get an anti-spyware programme on your computer as you probably already have spyware present.

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