is the number cause of computer related
service calls. (Read why)
What is spyware?
Spyware sends information from your
computer to a third party, usually as
part of an advertising-supported
software product. Other terms used to
describe this type of nuisance include
adware, malware, keyloggers, phishing
attacks and snoopware. Each of these
terms has a slightly different meaning,
and in the absence of an official
definition, even lawmakers are
continually reworking the definition of
spyware. Not all adware products are
spying on you, and not all spyware
pesters you with pop-up advertisements.
However, the word "spyware" has become
the generic term for all of the above.
Spyware makers usually want
information about your surfing habits to
better target pop-up advertisements
toward your preferences. However, they
could violate your privacy even further
by transmitting your name, gender, age,
address, passwords or any other personal
information you have saved on your
Where does it come from?
There are three main techniques used to
- Adware is often bundled with free
software programs. These programs
require users to accept pop-up
advertising as part of the service
they provide. If you have installed
one of these products, file-sharing
software or other similar products,
you may have unknowingly agreed to
view pop-up ads.
- Some Web sites require that you
install an application before you
use their site or in order to access
their products. Have you ever
visited a Web site and been prompted
to install something? Some sites,
usually ones that offer free
products, use this method to trick
users into downloading spyware.
- Spyware makers also exploit security
holes using viruses, fake email
messages, Trojan horses and ActiveX
controls. Using anti-virus software,
ignoring email attachments from
unknown senders and keeping your
computer up to date with the latest
security patches will mitigate this
How do I know if my
computer is infected with
Any computer that has ever been
connected to the Internet could
potentially be infected with
spyware. There are a number of
ways it can impact your system,
including the following:
could indicate that your
system's resources are
bogged down with running
spyware. Take note if your
computer is slow, crashing,
freezing up or otherwise
behavior could be a
sign that your browser has
been hijacked by spyware.
The default page you see
when you open a browser
window has changed. You're
being redirected to search
results on pages you don't
recognize. Your toolbar has
been replaced with something
you haven't seen before.
Pop-ups when you
aren't on the Internet
telltale sign. You're
getting pop-ups even with
pop-up blocking software
installed and running, or
you're seeing advertisements
when not on the Internet.
secure Web sites
are sometimes caused by
spyware. You could have
trouble logging into or
using secure Web sites like
WebMail, Outlook Express and
Not necessarily all of these
things will happen as a result
of spyware. Your computer could
be infected even if you're only
experiencing a single symptom.
Even a machine that is running
normally could be infected with
- Ignore email messages from
senders you don't recognize. The
messages could be spam intended to
install spyware on your computer.
- Most spyware is designed for
Microsoft Windows and the Internet
Explorer browser because the vast
majority of computers use these
technologies. Using an alternate OS
or a different browser could
decrease your risk.
- Install an Internet browser
popup blocker application to cut
down on the browser induced popup.
- Install a licensed anti-spyware
product on your computer as well as
a licenses anti-virus application.
- Scan your computer
spyware and viruses.
- Never click anywhere in the body
of the popup, either use the red "X"
or "close" on the window. If
these options aren't available, in
windows you can use the alt+f4
keystroke to close the window.