What is Spyware?
Spyware is software that can gain access to data on a computer without its user knowing.
Spyware often makes its way onto a network as part of freeware programs downloaded from the Internet. A successful download can put your network in peril and open the door to cyber threats, such as identity theft.
Not all spyware is as malicious, but it operates the same intrusive way to access your private information.
Some spyware locates your personal data for the sole purpose of targeted advertising. Others seek your email address, mailing address or other demographic information so companies can send ads to you through standard mail or email blasts.
Many free websites use spyware to direct advertising to your browser while you visit the site. These companies make money from the sites that advertise there. It allows site administrators to monetize the page without having to charge users.
From the most malicious to the least, spyware is difficult to remove.
Does my computer have spyware?
Even if your personal data isn’t targeted, spyware can diminish your Internet experience. It can change your default home page and display popup advertising that complicate hassle-free browsing. Also, spyware doesn’t stop running, which can slow your device.
Signs your device has spyware also include:
- Crashes: If your browser closes or crashes often, it could be from spyware.
- Unwanted toolbars: See toolbars on your browser you didn’t install? This might be spyware.
How can I avoid spyware?
Avoiding spyware downloads can be difficult.
Spyware often includes programs that hide in Windows code. Removing essential elements on your computer, mistaken for spyware, could debilitate that device. Here are tips to avoid letting spyware onto your network:
- Don’t click. Pop-up ads and links for free anti-spyware programs often contain spyware. Don’t be fooled by logos from trusted companies.
- Know the source. Spam is a common means of spyware delivery. Don’t open email attachments you’re not certain are safe. Make sure it came from the sender before you click.
- Stay updated. Set automatic updates in your device’s control panel. Microsoft issues critical updates all the time. Updates address new threats and methods to deliver malware.