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What is Spyware?

Spyware is similar to Adware, but it has a malicious intent. Both types of programs are stealthily introduced to the user's computer. In the case of Spyware and some Adware, the user is unaware of this invasion. The presence of either can be the cause of slowing down the speed of a computer. Spyware is also called malware.

Not all spyware is malicious. Some types of spyware may be installed on purpose, by the computer owner in order to track or monitor the activity of other users secretly. This may be used in some corporate, shared or public computer situations.

The negatives about malicious spyware are that it is secret, installed without the user's knowledge and that it can extract data about the user or other data from a computer and send it elsewhere. It can interfere with computer operations, change settings, bring up different home pages, cause loss of Internet service and interfere with the functioning of other installed programs. It is intended to monitor the activity of the user while on the Internet.

The spyware programs can collect and transmit personal information. Advertisers and others are interested in knowing what websites people visit and what are their Internet surfing habits. Some can even redirect browser input to land the user on another website than the user intended. Because of its intent to transmit information without user knowledge, it is classified as privacy-invasive software.

Spyware is somewhat like adware, which is advertising-supported software. Developers bundle the adware or spyware within a program. This allows the spyware or adware to infect the computer without the user's knowledge. The result of an infection is that the user's computer will run slower and there will be many pop-up ads that appear. The adware sets up ads based on the type of website the user visits. Spyware uses the information it collects about the user's Internet browsing to put up ads that are directly related to that browsing behavior. Both are putting up targeted ads, but the spyware is more malicious and sneakier in its behavior.

Spyware reports user activity to third parties. This can be reports about which websites a user visits, the number of visits and activity while on a website. This all occurs in the background while the user is actively browsing. The security problems involving spyware have generated an entire new industry devoted to foiling spyware and adware programs. Spyware has been used to steal identity information and credit card numbers. It does not self-replicate like a virus or worm.

If you believe your computer has been infected by spyware or adware, you have a solution. There are various software programs called anti-virus or anti-spyware software. Running anti-spyware software is now a regular routine activity in computer security practices. Computers that run Microsoft Windows operating systems and those who use Internet Explorer for their browser seem to be especially prone to having problems with spyware.

There has been some legal action in passing anti-spyware laws to help fight against the malicious use of these types of programs. Microsoft Security has a list of steps users can take to help prevent spyware and other programs from interfering with their computer. This is available at: http://www.microsoft.com/security/spyware/prevent.aspx. There is also spyware advice and information at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission website: http://www.ftc.gov/spyware.

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