What is Spyware?
Spyware is a type of malware that collects personal information from computer users without their consent, and typically without their knowledge. Spyware may record Internet browsing history, keystrokes (see Keyloggers), or use other methods to collect information such as credit card numbers. Some spyware redirects browsers to specific websites (which means that if a user finds himself inexplicably shunted to the wrong site after clicking a link or entering a URL, he ought to check whether any spyware is running on his computer.)
Spyware programs sometimes act as Trojan Horses by hiding inside other programs.
The creators of spyware are trying to make money. The information they take from you may be sold to businesses or used to enhance an individual or company's advertising.
Concerns for Parents
The biggest risks of spyware are that it can...
- Steal personal information from your computer
- Slow down your Internet
- Change how your web browser works, or alter favorite websites like your home page or frequently searched page
- Gear search results or advertisements via adware to your computer based on your history of purchases or searches on the Internet
- Open unwanted pop-ups
Anything that affects the way your computer operates to this extent is potentially dangerous to you and your children as you browse the Internet.
How Can I Keep My Computer Spyware-Free?
- Be sure your computer is equipped with antivirus protection. Special anti-spyware software is also available.
- Make sure that the antivirus package you select is complemented by a firewall.
- A lot of spyware can be avoided by simply exercising caution and using common sense on the web. Do not be fooled by pop-ups or websites that claim you should go to a specific site or download some program using words and catchphrases like "critical" or "warning." Such advertisements usually contain spyware. The best defense is to be conscious about the risk of what you are doing on the Internet, and to avoid viewing or downloading any material without knowing exactly who is responsible for it.
According to a 1991 study, more than 60 percent of users who believed their computer was spyware-free actually had spyware installed on their computer. Over 90 percent of respondents claimed to not have given permission to install these programs.
Where Can I Learn More?
This short article explains what spyware is and why it can be a threat.
Read what Microsoft security has to say about spyware here.