What is Spyware?
Every computer user should at some point make sure to ask, what is spyware? Spyware has become an ever-growing problem for computers, in some cases far worse than regular viruses. While many viruses cause more damage to a computer, they are less prevalent and tend to wreak havoc on the operating system. Spyware cannot only damage the computer, but it can also gather very private information from you as you surf the net.
What is Spyware’s Main Mechanism of Defense?
Spyware uses several defense mechanisms to either remain undetected or to combat a user’s attempts to eliminate the programs. The worst spyware programs, known as keyloggers, hide in your system, recording your every keystroke. Keyloggers use stealthy methods to secretly steal your personal information without your knowledge. In most cases, you won’t even notice a slow down in your system or an increase in pop-ups.
Another type of spyware, often called adware, is a bit more obvious. For those who wonder “what is spyware?” there are some blatant things you can look for. Annoying and constant pop-up ads are among the most common. If you feel like you spend more time closing pop-up ads than you do reading your email, you may very well have spyware.
Unexplained error messages are another sign that you may have spyware. Sometimes these messages will say that you have spyware and will offer a free scan of your operating system. In reality, some of these are actually spyware. Always avoid clicking on pop-ups from unknown sources.
What is Spyware’s Role in Identity Theft?
There are two basic levels for which spyware spies on your Internet usage and steals your personal information. The less harmful, but still disturbing, method is through scanning your cookies to see what types of websites you’ve been going to. Once the information is compiled, the spyware sends it back to advertising companies, which can then tailor pop-up ads to directly apply to you. If you’ve ever been surfing the net for a new bank and then a few days later been bombarded with pop-up ads offering different investment opportunities, you may have spyware.
Keyloggers are far more worrisome. This type of spyware logs your every keystroke, recording everything from bank account numbers, social security information, credit card numbers, and more. Hackers who use keyloggers can compile a comprehensive profile of you, including important financial information. This is the most common way people get their identities stolen via the Internet.
What is Spyware’s Lifespan?
Depending on how long you go without anti-spyware software, spyware can live in your system indefinitely. Some people will assume there is nothing they can do for the incessant pop-ups or excruciatingly slow system, so they just buy a new computer. Anti-spyware software is a far cheaper solution, however.
Anti-spyware software can be found for free online, but your safest bet is to buy a trusted program to clean out your computer. Make sure you are purchasing the software from a legitimate source that will provide you good customer service and support.
You should also look for software that does more than one single scan for spyware. Most programs won’t get 100% of the spyware the first time through. You want a program that continues to scan until the computer is totally clean.
The anti-spyware software company should provide updates to you as well. New spyware is constantly being created. Your software should not only clean out your current spyware, it should protect you from getting any new spyware on your system.
If you have begun to ask the question, “what is spyware?” you are well on your way to protecting your computer and your identity. Anyone and everyone is at risk. If you own a computer, you should also own anti-spyware software.