What is Computer Spyware?
Computer spyware installs itself on your computer without your knowledge or consent and records your every move. Spyware is sometimes used for
marketing purposes. Based on sites you have visited in the past, you may find your browser redirected to similar sites, or you may find yourself
barraged by pop-up ads. You may even find that your home page has been changed to a commercial site. Pornography sites are especially infamous
for changing homepage settings, which can lead to considerable embarrassment at home or in the workplace. Even worse, computer spyware can be
used to record your keystrokes, which can lead to identity theft, especially if you complete online forms requesting your name, date of birth,
social security number, credit card information, etc.
How Does Spyware Get on My Computer?
Spyware is usually bundled with some sort of download--games, screen savers, shared files, pornographic pictures, etc. For this reason, it is
important to download only from trusted sites with solid reputations. If your computer is always connected to the internet, you may be the victim
of a "drive by" download, or a download that is sent automatically to your computer without any action taken on your part. You can foil drive by
downloads by installing a firewall and keeping the security level high enough to prevent downloads from taking place without your permission.
Your firewall should also alert you if another computer is attempting to send information to your computer. Finally, if you click on a link
within a pop-up ad, you might inadvertently install computer spyware. No matter how interesting or tempting the ad may look, close it out
immediately by clicking on the "X" box, usually located in the upper right corner.
How Can I Get Rid of Computer Spyware?
First of all, delete spam emails that offer to get rid of computer spyware for you. If you click on the links provided in the spam, you will
actually be downloading spyware instead of getting rid of it. Instead, download a reputable spyware detection program such as Ad-Aware from
Lavasoft. Run it regularly, at least once a week, and immediately delete any spyware it detects. This brief task will ensure that your private
life remains private--even in cyber space.
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