What are spyware ?
Spyware (including adware, malware, or hijacker for example) is a broad software category that covers any program that secretly tracks or records information about you, your computer use or personal information. Often these programs have the ability to report back to a central database computer on the Internet without you knowing it. Since many people now have 'always on' broadband Internet connections, it is easy for spyware software to report it's findings without you ever knowing it.
If you want more details about spyware please read this page.
Why spyware is bad ?
Spyware exists for two primary reasons: gathering marketing data, hacking.
On the marketing side, spyware might make a record of the programs you have installed on your computer or record every web site you visit. By looking at how you use your computer and where you go, marketing agencies can build a VERY intimate marketing profile of you. Information like this is very valuable to an advertiser but you get nothing in return, except your loss of privacy.
On the 'hacking' side, spyware might record every keystroke you make on your computer enabling hackers to 'see' your logins, passwords and credit card numbers as you type them, even if your browser is in a secure session! Spyware could also slowly send all the documents in your 'my documents' folder to someone without you knowing it, or send your Instant Messenger (IM) chat logs!
How not to get spyware
Spyware can be delivered and installed on your computer in many forms. It is sometimes included in the install package of many popular shareware programs. Sometimes worms or spyware come installed in your favorite operating system or program directly from the manufacturer! Here are some spyware resource lists that will help you check for spyware.
Before you install any shareware or especially FREEWARE, go to the following resources and check to be sure it is not spyware.
How to get rid of spyware
The only guaranteed way to remove spyware is to completely re-install your computer system from scratch. You can use the following advice for removing commonly 'known' spyware:
Go to Control-Panel -> "Add/Remove programs" and check if you see strange programs like GATOR, GAIN or HOTBAR, for example. If you find one of them then click on "Remove" to remove it from your system. This may not be enough because spyware can be hidden and therefore not shown in the "Add/Remove" list. For theses cases a third party software is necessary to solve the problem. Here are some programs that can help you to detect and remove spyware:
- Lavasoft's Ad-Aware
Ad-aware is a free multi spyware removal utility that scans your memory, registry and hard drives for known spyware and scumware components and lets you remove them safely. It is updated frequently.
- PepiMK Software's Spybot "Search & Destroy"
More powerful in functionality than Ad-Aware, but more complicated for new users.
I installed anti-spyware software and now program X does not work.