What is Spyware?
Spyware is a type of malware (MALicious softWARE) that can take over your
computer, and install itself without your knowledge or consent. It can get on
your computer either through malicious web sites exploiting security bugs in
your web browser to download and install the spyware, or by being bundled with
software that you chose to install.
Most types of spyware gather at least some personal information about the user
of the computer (hence the name SPYware). This usually includes information
about your surfing habits, such as web sites visited, but in extreme cases has
been known to include highly confidential information such as passwords - even
passwords to Internet bank accounts!
At the very least, somebody gathering information about you without your
knowledge or consent, can leave you feeling violated. In the worst cases, there
is a risk that you could become a victim of fraud.
The normal purpose of most (but not all) spyware is not to facilitate financial
fraud against individual internet users, but instead is to generate revenue for
the spyware's developer by displaying adverts. Each of the adverts may only
generate a few pennies for the developer, but if many thousands of computers are
infected, these pennies can add up to a very large amount. These adverts may not
always be immediately obvious as being adverts, and often include one or more of
• By setting your web browser's home page to an advert-filled page controlled by the spyware's developer.
• By redirecting searches or mistyped URLs to an advert-filled search engine controlled by the spyware.
• By showing pop-up adverts when you surf. A particularly common variant is to
show pop-ups for a rival merchant when you visit a leading web site. For example, you go to shop
at book store A, and start seeing pop-ups for a different book store, B.
Of course a line needs to be drawn between spyware and legitimate advertising-
supported software, so you should not assume that all software that contains
advertising is spyware. Legitimate advertising-supported software may also show
adverts on your computer, and in some cases even gather personal information
about you, however the difference is that it is does this with your informed consent.
The typical bargain with legitimate advertising-supported software goes like
this: in return for you accepting advertising and some agreed collection of
information about you, you get some useful software in return.
For more information about spyware please go to:
Guide to Spyware
For more information about spyware removal software go to:
More Windows Administration Information:
• Computer Architecture, Main Memory, and the CISSP Exam
• How Many Spyware Items Are Slowing Down Your Computer?
• Keep Your Firefox Browsing Private
• Remove Stubborn Malware Infection With McAfee Labs Stinger
• How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi
• Beginner's Guide to Computer Forensics
• What is Phishing and How to Safeguard Against It
• Firefox Security Options
• Video - Protect Your Files with Free SafeHouseExplorer Encryption Application
• How to Protect Yourself Against Keyloggers