Spyware can invade your privacy by recording, passing on and abusing your personal details – including credit card details – all of it behind your back. Good anti virus software
or blocker software (known as antispyware) will keep you safe from the threats spyware poses.
How to protect yourself in the first place
Spyware is often installed on your computer when you download free software. So you should carefully read the licence agreement for any software you download from the internet.
What you should look for is a paragraph saying that your PII (Personally Identifiable Information) WILL NOT be shared with third parties.
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Locate and remove what’s already there
Spyware removal is a key component in internet security, and the removal software is referred to as ‘antispyware’.
Good antispyware software - which is what you get with BullGuard’s Internet Security suite - will:
• Keep your data personal
• Ensure that your online identity is protected
• Locate and remove all known spyware and adware
• Clean files, registry keys and cookies
How spyware infects your computer
Spyware doesn’t spread in the manner of a computer virus or worm: generally, an infected system does not attempt to transmit the infection to other computers.
Instead, spyware gets on a system through deception of the user or exploitation of software vulnerabilities.
Spyware is deceptive by nature
Most spyware is installed without user’s knowledge. Since users tend not to install software if they know that it will disrupt their working environment and compromise their privacy, spyware deceives you, either by piggybacking on a piece of desirable software such as LimeWire, or by tricking them into installing it (the ‘Trojan horse’ method). The distributor of spyware usually presents the program as a useful utility — for instance, as a "web accelerator" or as a helpful software agent.
Spyware monitors behaviour and collects information
While the term ‘spyware’ suggests software that secretly monitors your behaviour, the functions of spyware extend well beyond simple monitoring. Spyware programs can collect personal information, such as internet surfing habits, and can also interfere with your control over the computer in other ways, installing additional software and redirecting web browser activity.
Some of the most damaging spyware are ‘keyloggers’, small programs or hardware devices that monitor each keystroke you type on a specific computer's keyboard, including typos, backspacing and retyping.
They are used by cybercriminals to covertly watch and record everything you type on your computer in order to harvest your log-in names, passwords, and other sensitive information, and send it on to the hackers. This may include any passwords you have asked your computer to remember for you to speed up logging in, as these are held as cookies on your machine.
What spyware does to your computer
A spyware program is rarely alone on a computer: an infected machine usually has multiple infections. Users frequently notice unwanted behaviour and degradation of system performance.
A spyware infestation can create significant unwanted activity in the CPU (the Central Processing Unit, i.e. the brains of your computer), as well as unwanted disk usage and network traffic. Stability issues, such as applications freezing, failure to boot and system-wide crashes are also common. Spyware which interferes with networking software commonly causes difficulty connecting to the internet.
Spyware is known to change computer settings, resulting in slow connection speeds, different home pages, and/or loss of internet or functionality of other programs.
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Read our security articles and learn more:
What is a keylogger?
What is a rootkit?