Spyware applications are programs that secretly run on a computer and gather personal information. They will monitor your computer activity whether you are online or offline. There are many types of spyware applications and each is often referred to by a more descriptive name (i.e. adware, malware, thiefware, etc.). They are designed to retrieve as much information as they can about you (i.e. web sites you visit, where you shop, who you have accounts with, software you use, etc.) and they send that information to an outside party, usually without your consent. For most computer users, spyware applications are a nuisance, but if you don't protect yourself, some spyware applications can lead to a more serious threat such as identity theft.
Symptoms of Spyware:
- Your computer functions slower
- Slower Internet connection
- Spontaneous pop-up ads
- Your Web browser's default home page changes
- Your Web browser settings change and you can't change them back
- New or different search toolbar
- Changes in your computers configuration
A spyware application can arrive to your computer and install itself in various ways. It can arrive in an email or in an email attachment, through a pop-up window or ad, through a Web page, through an instant messenger service, through a file sharing program, and even through bundled software that you purchase and install (often disclosed in the license agreement). Fortunately there are anti-spyware applications you can install that will scan your computer for spyware and remove it.