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What is Spyware?

Spyware and other unwanted software refers to software that performs certain tasks on your computer, typically without your consent. This may include giving you advertising or collecting personal information about you. Therefore, this technical brief outlines some of the many symptoms of spyware. Microsoft has produced many security related videos outlining how you can keep your system safer from online threats.

Microsoft Spyware Video

Go To The Microsoft Video Tutorial Page


Spyware is any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of downloadable freeware or shareware programs. However, the majority of shareware and freeware applications do not come with spyware. Once installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and then transmits that information in the background to someone else. Spyware can also gather information about E-mail addresses, user passwords, and even credit card information.

Spyware is similar to a Trojan horse where users can unknowingly install the threat while installing something else. One can become a victim of spyware by downloading certain peer-to-peer file swapping products readily available on the Internet. But more and more, users can be infected with spyware simply by surfing the internet. Many times spyware objects are invisibly and unethically embedded into web pages by the web master. And by simply visiting one of these web sites, the user is unsuspectingly infected.

Aside from the questions of ethics and privacy, spyware steals from the user by using the computer's memory resources and also by eating bandwidth as it sends information back to the Spyware's home base via the user's Internet connection. Because spyware is using memory and system resources, the applications running in the background can lead to system crashes or general system instability.

As spyware exists as independent executable programs, they are able to monitor keystrokes, scan user files, snoop other applications, such as chat programs, install other spyware programs, read cookies, change the browser default home page, consistently relaying this information back to the spyware author who will either use it for advertising, and/or marketing purposes, or sell the information to another party.

License agreements that accompany software downloads sometimes warn users that a spyware program will be installed along with the requested software, but these agreements are not always read completely because the notice of a spyware installation is often couched in obtuse, hard-to-read legal disclaimers.

You Can Also Read Our Virus Information Article By Clicking Here: What Is A Computer Virus?


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