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What is Spyware?

By: John Mussi
Published: May 24, 2005     

The most frustrating part of having Spyware on your computer is the sheer feeling of helplessness that is invoked. Your computer slows down, it no longer does what you instructed it to, it seems to have a mind of its own. You effectively have lost control of your computer. Spyware (also referred to as Adware or Malware) is software that is installed on your computer without your consent. Spyware software monitors or controls your computer use. It may be used to send you pop-up ads, redirect your computer to websites, monitor your Internet surfing, or record your keystrokes, which, in turn, could lead to identity theft.

Here are some of the symptoms that indicate Spyware is on a computer:

?a barrage of pop-up ads

?a hijacked browser ? that is, a browser that takes you to sites other than those you type into the address box

?a sudden or repeated change in your computer?s Internet home page

?new and unexpected toolbars

?new and unexpected icons on the system tray at the bottom of your computer screen

?keys that don?t work (for example, the ?Tab? key that might not work when you try to move to the next field in a Web form)

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?random error messages

?sluggish or downright slow performance when opening programs or saving files

Follow these precautions in order to help prevent Spyware installation:

?Update your operating system and Web browser software. Your operating system (like Windows or Linux) may offer free software ?patches? to close holes in the system that Spyware could exploit.

?Download free software only from sites you know and trust. It can be appealing to download free software like games, peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, customized toolbars, or other programs that may change or customize the functioning of your computer. Be aware, however, that some of these free software applications bundle other software, including Spyware.

?Don?t install any software without knowing exactly what it is. Take the time to read the end-user license agreement (EULA) before downloading any software. If the EULA is hard to find ? or difficult to understand ? think twice about installing the software.

?Minimize ?drive-by? downloads. Make sure your browser security setting is high enough to detect unauthorized downloads, for example, at least the ?Medium? setting for Internet Explorer. Keep your browser updated.

?Don?t click on any links within pop-up windows. If you do, you may install Spyware on your computer. Instead, close pop-up windows by clicking on the ?X? icon in the title bar.

?Don?t click on links in spam that claim to offer anti-spyware software. Some software offered in spam actually installs Spyware.

?Install a personal firewall to stop uninvited users from accessing your computer. A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer and will alert you if Spyware already on your computer is sending information out.

John Mussi is the founder of Direct Online Loans who help UK homeowners find the best available loans via the website.

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