Spyware is fast becoming one of the biggest problems facing internet users today. Historically, viruses have received a great deal more attention, but the fact is that spyware is a huge problem that needs to be addressed as well.
In order to understand it better, it is important to make it clear that spyware is not the same as a virus, and in truth, is not the same as adware or malware, although it is often lumped together or used interchangeably with those terms. Because of the confusion between all of these definitions, it can be difficult to even know what to call it.
Spyware, in its simplest definition, is a rogue application that is installed on a user’s computer meant to collect personal information. It is most often done without the user knowing, except in the case of keylogger software that can be installed by an owner of a public or shared computer that will monitor the usage of others.
Most of the time, this information is sent back to a central server and used for marketing purposes. Distributors claim that the information is gathered to create better products and services to their clients. But, there are still many opponents to spyware who state that it is an invasion of privacy.
In addition, some spyware can cause more problems for the computer user, such as taking over the Web browser and redirecting to other sites, or slowing a computer down to a crawl. Other problems that can be encountered include changing computer settings and causing the loss of other Internet or computer functions.
Spyware is often installed on a user’s computer by piggybacking on software that they are already installing. Other methods of infection include tricking the user into believing it is something else, known as the Trojan horse method and often disguised as security software, or by searching for holes in the Internet browser to sneak in.
Thankfully, there are now many anti-spyware software programs which can help detect and get rid of the unwanted spyware on a user’s computer.