Spywares are programs that are installed on your computer without you knowing it. The purpose of spyware is to gather important information about you, like your surfing patterns, your favorite websites, keywords and phrases that you look for in search engines, your keystrokes and even passwords you type on your keyboard. This information is used for marketing purposes, stealing cash, blackmailing and even identity theft.
How could you tell if spyware is already in your computer system?
Notice changes. Are your settings still the same as you chose them? Spyware can change aspects of your internet preferences such as your home page, your bookmarked sites and your internet security settings. You may also notice additional programs installed that you haven’t downloaded.
Slowing down. Computer memory required to run spyware takes up a lot of space. That is why computer and internet speed can bog down. You can sometimes notice on the lower left hand corner of your browser that information is being sent to an unknown site. You can also click on the Windows Task Manager (or open it from the keyboard by pressing Control-Shift-Escape) and see if unusual programs are running These could be an indication that spyware is sending out your information to remote computers.
Program crashes. Do your programs crash regularly or does your computer hang whenever you visit a certain site? Spyware may be running on the background, affecting your computer system adversely. If this keeps on happening, take care of the spyware immediately, before your files get corrupted.
Popup ads. When you notice that ads keep popping every time you enter a site, or even when you open your computer, even though you are not connected to the internet, it is likely that you have spyware installed on your hard drive. Spywares take note of keywords you type often or sites you often visit, and these ads often sell items related to the words and sites you use. By clicking on popup ads, you may activate even more spyware. Also, these can automatically open sites that have questionable content and contain software that install themselves onto your computer without your consent.
Internet cookies. These are small programs that record information about the user on every visit to a site, such as preferences and habits. This information could in turn be sent to a remote computer and be used for various purposes. By clicking on the Internet Options in your browser’s toolbar, selecting Privacy and clicking on Cookies, you can see the internet cookies stored in your computer and delete them when necessary.
Anti-spyware programs. These programs can detect, filter, handle and remove spyware in your computer. These could be downloaded from the internet for free, and often have regular updates. More complete and powerful versions can be purchased.
Spyware is dangerous, yet with knowledge and discipline in browsing, you can keep yourself and your computer safe. The best way to be free of spyware is avoiding suspicious sites, clicking on links or downloading illegal programs. However if you suspect that spyware has already infected your computer, download spyware cleaning tools as soon as possible.