What Is Spyware?

Spyware is among the most common types of internet threats and unfortunately it can also be the most dangerous. Cyber criminals sometimes use spyware to steal your private information, which could result in financial loss and identity theft. What is spyware? How does spyware infect your computer and how can you protect yourself from it? Find out what you need to know about spyware here in this article.

If you use a computer and the Internet, there is always a danger to fall prey to viruses, malware and other types of online attacks. One of the most common threats for computers can be the infection with spyware. According to studies, as much as 90 percent of computers have at some point been infected with spyware. What exactly is spyware? Read our overview about spyware so you know what you’re up against!

WHAT IS SPYWARE?

Spyware is any type of program installed on your computer, sometimes even without you knowing about it, that monitors your activity and can send this information to another party. Some forms of spyware also change your computer’s settings and/or interfere with your work. They can make your Internet browsing slow down or annoy you with popups or redirected web pages. The most dangerous types of spyware are those types, that try to get your private information, like your login information, passwords or credit card data, that you may be using for sensitive things, such as online banking or shopping on the Internet. These programs may steal your data and could cause significant financial loss or use your personal information for identity theft.

HOW YOU CAN GET INFECTED WITH SPYWARE

Unfortunately there are several ways how spyware could find a way into your computer. Software that you download from the internet, exploits in operating systems, outdated web browsers, shady web sites, file sharing and even emails are all ways how spyware is often distributed. The problem with spyware is, that it is not always obvious to even experienced computer users. Cyber criminals at times go through lengths to disguise these programs, so that simply being careful on the Internet is often not enough to protect you.

HOW TO BE SAFE FROM SPYWARE ON THE INTERNET

To minimize the chances for spyware infection you can do several things. Before everything else, make sure that your computer and operating system is always kept up-to-date with the latest patches and security fixes. Don’t use outdated Internet browsers and always use the latest version. Most importantly, make sure you install a modern and reliable antivirus and/or anti-spyware software program on your computer. Make sure that you use an internet firewall too.  Modern operating systems now normally have a firewall built-in but it is also often included with better antivirus software products.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SPYWARE

Aside from the above mentioned safety precautions, most importantly that you have a modern and capable antivirus and anti-spyware software, you can do more things to further minimize your risk.

Know that spyware is often bundled with other types of software like freeware or shareware. When you install such software from the Internet, you should always at first carefully read the disclosure and license agreement. Note that the inclusion of spyware in a software program may only be mentioned in the “small print”, maybe at the end of the license agreement. Because of this you should read everything carefully and entirely before you install anything on your computer.

Important: Don’t depend on that anyone who intends to infiltrate your computer with spyware would tell you so. While you can reduce your risk of infection by reading the license agreements for some types of shareware, only a good antivirus and anti-spyware software solution can give you the best protection from spyware!