Spyware Programs Making You Crazy?
Spyware programs come in many shapes and sizes. Some are very obvious, like those that flood your computer screen with unwanted advertisements. Other less flamboyant types of spyware programs lurk in your system, secretly gathering your personal information.
Depending on who you talk to, spyware programs can also be called adware (advertisement+software) and malware (malicious+software). No matter what you call them, they are bad news.
In general, spyware is defined as a program that has been downloaded to your computer without consent. It is virtual hijacking. The spyware programs materialize in various ways. While some are concerned with surveillance, others take control of your computer.
Some spyware tracks your every online move. This is usually done for the purpose of gaining information about the types of sites you visit. This information can be collected and then sold to advertisers. The advertisers use the spyware programs to figure out how to market to whom. So if you’ve ever been surfing the web for a cruise vacation and then found yourself being bombarded with vacation package popups, it’s likely you have spyware or adware.
Another way spyware programs work is by literally taking control of your computer. Not only does it become saturated with popups, it also may be nearly unusable because of error messages or other out of the ordinary occurrences. This type of breakdown in system performance makes it easy for the user to identify that spyware is causing the problem.
The worst kind of spyware programs are called keyloggers. These spyware programs not only secretly record your every keystroke, they also send that information back to the perpetrating hacker. This means that everything from your email, to bank passwords, to credit card numbers are gathered by the keylogger. To make matters worse, you might have no idea of the presence of the keylogger until it is too late.
Preventing and Combating Spyware Programs
One way to avoid spyware programs is by using a Macintosh or a PC with a non-Windows operating system. Spyware programs are mostly written for PCs with Windows since those are the most prevalent among computer owners. However, if Macs or PC operating systems like Linux become more popular it is virtually guaranteed that spyware will become a major problem for these operating systems. Because Windows has the largest market share spyware is typically targetted for the Windows platform.
Some people recommend using Firefox as an alternative web browser. But, this won’t stop all spyware. Personally I use Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages.
Since hackers will probably adapt and eventually create spyware programs to work with other operating systems and web browsers, it’s a good idea to develop vigilant web surfing habits right away. These habits include the following:
* Be knowledgeable about the online sites you visit. If a site says you must download something to view the page, you are better off missing out on the website rather than putting your computer at risk for infection.
* Ignore pop-ups. Never follow a link or click “okay.” Just close the pop up and move on.
* Don’t open spam. Spammers are notorious for including spyware programs in their emails.
* Be careful when downloading. This especially includes unnecessary downloads like new toolbars and games.
* Run a regular scan for spyware. You protect your house and car from theft with a lock, why wouldn’t you protect your computer?
For the time being, however, spyware, adware, and malware is here to stay. In fact, most people who own a computer have encountered some sort of spyware.
Take the aforementioned steps in order to both eliminate current spyware programs and prevent future ones from infecting your system. After all, the many important pieces of information that are transferred via your computer and the Internet are worth protecting.