Home > Internet Scams > What is Spyware?

What is Spyware?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 19 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Spyware Adware Anti-spyware Scan Hacking

Spyware has become one of the most pervasive Internet threats today. Without your knowledge it can not only ruin your computer, but also your life. It can slip onto your machine easily, but removing spyware can be a lengthy, frustrating business. The simple way is to try and make sure you keep the threat to a minimum.

What Spyware Does

Spyware often arrives hidden in a free programme you've downloaded from the Net or in the attachment to an e-mail (it can be tucked away in something as innocent as a picture). You won't know it's there until it starts to act.

In its most benign form, spyware is used for advertising purposes, and call adware. You might suddenly find pop-up adverts appearing on your screen, even when you're not connected online. There might be a new toolbar on your browser that you don't recall installing. You might type in a web address and surprisingly find yourself on a completely different site. Or you could find that your home page has mysteriously changed or that there have been changes in your computer's registry files. Almost certainly your computer will be more sluggish.

A more malicious type of spyware doesn't announce itself in that way. Instead it records every keystroke that you make, and at pre-set intervals, transmits those to a third party. Consider what that means: someone, somewhere, knows everything you typed, be it work, love letters, web addresses…or your personal and financial information. The worst part is, if you have one piece of spyware on your system, the chances are you actually have dozens.

How You Become Infected

The best way to get spyware on a computer is for the user to install it himself. So it often comes piggybacked onto software you download, such as a file-sharing programme, or even masquerading as an anti-spyware utility.

Pop-up ads can contain spyware. Those ads offering optimised computer performance, for example, could easily be installing spyware if you click yes or accept.

Another, trickier way is exploit holes in your browser's security - in recent years Internet Explorer has been particularly vulnerable to these, but it's not the only one. It can happen if you go to a web page that contains spyware. Code on the page attacks your browser and forces the installation of spyware.

How to Prevent Spyware

Spyware can be insidious, and even with the very best safeguards, it's still possible to become infected. However, there are some things you can do to greatly lessen the chances of that happening.

Be very careful what software you download from the Web. Download only from trusted sites. Spyware can often be found on person-to-person file sharing networks (often in the initial software you download), and on pornography sites. The simple solution is don't download anything you don't know.

  • Never open e-mail attachments from anyone you don't know. Spyware can easily be hidden or disguised.
  • If you receive a pop-up advert, never close it by clicking "OK" or "Agree." Always use the red "X." Never accept a pop-up.
  • Download a pop-up blocker.
  • Use both a good anti-virus and a firewall. You can obtain both for free, downloading online (there are a few trusted names) or buy on CD to install. A firewall makes it harder to hack into your computer, whilst using an anti-virus (and scanning your computer regularly, preferably daily but at least weekly) will help keep your machine clean.
  • Don't lower the security level of your browser. The default setting is medium, which should be adequate, although you can alter it by opening Internet Explorer, clicking on Tools > Internet Options, and then clicking the Privacy tab.
  • Finally, install anti-adware and anti-spyware. Again, there is free software that will do the job, although once again you'll need to scan regularly.

If you're Infected

The odds are that every time you scan with anti-spyware, you'll find some adware, at the very least. Most of it will be cookies, the small trackers web sites put on your machine. They're harmless, but you should delete them. Do the same with anything else you find.

The first time you scan might prove to be a shock. You'll probably be more infected than you realise. You won't be alone - estimates are the 67% of all computers are infected with some kind of spyware. Quarantine and delete everything you find. But if you're not sure how to proceed, don't be afraid to take your computer in and have a professional work on it. Yes, it'll cost a little, but it's far cheaper than some of the possible alternatives.

Fighting spyware is an ongoing battle. But if you do everything above, it's one you can win.

Website Design and Hosting

If you are looking to increase brand awareness, generate web enquiries and/or generate online sales ISD will create an affordable, mobile friendly, secure website - check out In Studio Design.

Based in the UK, skilled in WordPress, web design, ecommerce and illustration, they will build your site quickly, host it on a high performance server, and make it SEO friendly.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Goldie
    Re: Builder's Scams
    I was given a full quote by a builder located in Liverpool. He is called Gary Jones of Jones Design and build, 182 Fairclough Road Huyton Liverpool…
    19 June 2024
  • Lorraine
    Re: Builder's Scams
    Marble Building Improvements. Like others, I too was scammed by Mr. Charlie Russell Crispin and Louize Giles, located at 50 Wakering Road, Barking…
    20 December 2023
  • Shah
    Re: Builder's Scams
    FG please contact me shohid50@hotmail.cm
    16 October 2023
  • Shah
    Re: Builder's Scams
    I got marble home improvements Ltd started work on my loft conversion in August 2023 then in 6th September 2023 they have left unfinished work and…
    4 October 2023
  • Sally 74
    Re: Builder's Scams
    Lords builders and developers have taken 25000 from us for a first floor extension & roof but unfortunately they wrecked the place and left! The…
    3 October 2023
  • Ffoxxey
    Re: Sky TV Scam
    Another number for the same scam - 02045 869992
    17 July 2023
  • ali
    Re: Builder's Scams
    got scammed by marble building improvements they are shocking, they kept doing half jobs and kept asking for the next payment
    14 July 2023
  • Mary14
    Re: Builder's Scams
    @brunette 77 Hi yes we have dealt with marble building improvements and they have literally robbed me and gone. Can you share your experience with…
    10 July 2023
  • Brunette777
    Re: Builder's Scams
    Has anyone had dealings with a company called marble building improvements ltd?
    16 June 2023
  • Min
    Re: Builder's Scams
    Balak Nath of southhall created a dreadful driveway, uneven, too high, now crumbling. AVOID HIM LIKE THE PLAGUE
    27 May 2023