Spyware | What is Spyware?

Spyware is a type of malicious software that is installed on a computer to monitor the user’s activities and report them back to the spyware developer. This is in direct violation of the user’s privacy, and is banned by international law. Therefore spyware is considered as a dangerous form of software and steps should be taken to remove it from any computer it is found on. However, spyware can be hard to detect and remove, as they tend to keep a low profile while gathering user data.

Normally, spyware gathers information on the user’s habits such as internet browsing activities or spyware can come in the form of keystroke loggers which store all the user’s keystrokes and report them back to the spyware developer. Some spyware installs more malicious software, redirects web browsers and also changes system settings without the user’s permission.

Spyware cannot self-replicate like viruses or worms, rather, they must be manually or automatically installed on each individual computer that they infect. They do not attempt to infect other computers on their own. Therefore, spyware uses 3 main methods to get installed on user system:

1.    Piggybacking on other software – Usually a spyware program will get downloaded and installed along with other useful applications such as utility programs. Adware is also known to harbor spyware. Although the desired program does no harm in this instance, the spyware that came along with it does.

2.    By tricking the user – The spyware developer uses social engineering techniques to convince the user that some spyware program is useful. The user then voluntarily downloads and installs the spyware on their system.

3.    Aggressive methods – Some spyware, once installed on a user’s system, will redirect the user’s web browser by using browser helper objects to dangerous websites which will install more spyware programs on the user’s computer. Other spyware will use a Trojan virus that gets installed along with ActiveX components, video codecs or the like which will then download and install the spyware without the user’s permission.

The best way to remove spyware is to use anti-spyware applications which have sprung up with the widespread propagation of spyware among computer users. These anti-spyware applications are designed to offer live protection from spyware and to scan the computer regularly and remove any spyware that is found. Keeping one of these programs installed and well-updated is the best way to avoid your privacy from being compromised by spyware. However, there are a group of malicious software known as ‘rogue anti-spyware’ that pretend to be anti-spyware applications, however they are not real anti-spyware and are simply aimed at swindling money from users.

Outside Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spyware

http://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/spyware-whatis.aspx

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