Spyware is the name given to computer programs that secretly record and monitor the activities that you carry out on your computer. Some spyware programs are legitimate. These programs simply log the number of times you carry out certain activities and use this information for marketing purposes or to monitor whether the program is being used in accordance with its licensing agreement. The majority of spyware programs, however, are malicious; they capture sensitive information, such as your passwords and bank details, and send them over the Internet so that it can be used by others. You may fail to notice that you have malicious spyware on your computer. This is because spyware programs tend to work in the background. Spyware is often distributed through shared programs (shareware) and free programs (freeware) so that it can infect as many computers as possible.
You can protect yourself against spyware in a range of ways. The most important way in which to avoid spyware is to refrain from installing freeware and shareware onto your computer. These programs tend to be found on lesser known websites. Therefore, you should only download programs from reputable sites. If in doubt, read reviews of download sites to decide whether or not they can be trusted.
Anti-spyware tools can also help you to protect yourself against spyware. The majority of these anti-spyware programs are freeware themselves. These programs run in the background and, when kept up to date, can help to ward off spyware. However, not all anti-spyware programs are to be trusted. Some malicious downloads advertise themselves as anti-spyware programs. These downloads tend to be marketed in spam emails or over the telephone. They should never be downloaded as they have the potential to encrypt your hard disk drive so that you cannot read your own data or create pop-up windows so that you are unable to use your computer without interruption. These programs may demand cash to release you from the problem. However, paying up will not necessarily remove the program from your computer. For this reason, it is essential to never download anti-spyware products associated with unsolicited offers. If you are in doubt as to whether an anti-spyware product is genuine, you should search the web for reviews of the product and only trust those with a favourable reputation.
If your computer has already been infected with spyware, you may find that removing the program poses a challenge. If you have already installed an anti-spyware tool onto your computer, you should run this program. If you lack an anti-spyware tool, you should download one from a reputable company. The anti-spyware program should detect the presence of spyware and provide you with the option of removing it from your computer. A surprising number of spyware programs have functioning uninstallers that will remove the program from your computer. If you find a spyware program on your computer, you can select the uninstall option and remove the program yourself, without the help of an anti-spyware tool. Following uninstalling spyware programs, you should always reboot your computer.
Once spyware has been removed from your computer, you should find your computer to work as you would expect it to. If the spyware program slowed down your computer or produced unwanted pop-up windows while you were working, you should find yourself free from such interruptions upon removing the spyware.
Written by Matt Higgins, an Internet Security blogger.