What is Spyware?

Spyware can be also be called adware or malware. It is software that runs on your computer without your permission or knowledge. Sometimes it can slow down your computer to a standstill by running a lot of processes in the background. You can pick it up it by just surfing the internet. At best it invades your privacy by recording your internet habits. At worst it steals your credit card numbers or leaves a huge back entrance for hackers to get into your computer.

Advertising or Adware

Adware may give you advertising consisting of pop-ups or other online ads.  This can be annoying because the pop-ups can obscure the information you really want to see with unrelated ads.  For instance you may be trying to read the a movie schedule of a local theatre website and are almost late for the 7:15 showing, and instead are seeing  some stupid pop-up ad for homeowner insurance that hides the schedule.  You have to close the insurance ad  to see the movie schedule .  Sometimes it may even pop up again.  You don’t want a homeowner insurance ad , you want the movie schedule, and you still have to pick up your friend for the movie.  Too many pop-ups can degrade your surfing experience to the point of exasperation.

Or it can be like a cat or small child who wants your attention when you are trying to work on your computer.  You have a deadline but computer screen is partially hidden by the pet’s or child’s too large head.  Except in the case of the pop-ups, it is something that is useless as well as annoying, and not something you ought to be giving some quality time to, at least occasionally.

Sometimes when you download a free version of a software program you agree to having advertising on your computer or mobile device.  For instance, I downloaded instant messaging software on my smartphone which gives me a small banner ad on the bottom of the interface. I agreed to the ad because this particular messaging software has a feature I like that the default messenger  doesn’t:  it lets me know when I have a message  with  an alert box in the middle of the screen, so I’m less likely to miss messages.  If I paid for the software, the ads would disappear, but with the free version I get ads.  This is a trade I’m willing to live with and that I agreed to when I downloaded and installed the software.  Before you download any software, read the licensing agreement to see what advertising and privacy clauses you actually are agreeing to and see if you’re willing to live with the trade.

Spyware, malware, and adware behaves the same, but with a an important difference.  With spyware when you download software or other files such as movies or music,  it not only comes bundled with ads, but also with software that collect information about you.  More to the point, it installs both the ads and the software without your consent and may use them in ways that will hurt you such as stealing your passwords or credit card numbers.  This is not benign and is considered malware.

Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPS)

Sometimes software comes with a bunch of other programs that are promotional in nature but not a threat to personal identity or credit card/bank account theft.  They can be annoying since they slow down your computer or fill up your browser with pop-ups and toolbars.  Occasionally a person may even like these programs such as the shopping or music toolbars, but this is not someone I’ve ever met.  These programs are called Potentially Unwanted Programs.  You may or may not have agreed to installing them, but after they are installed you really don’t want them.  They are like a boyfriend or girlfriend you didn’t know well enough before you committed yourself.  Once you see what they’re like, you want to break up.  They really should be called Hardly Ever Wanted Programs.  They can be difficult to remove.

Personal Information

Often spyware collects information about you for commercial or more nefarious purposes.  The data collected can be benign and anonymous such as storing a cookie on your browser to give you a version of a site more suited to your interests and previous surfing behavior or  it can be a criminal stealth of passwords and credit card information.  Keyloggers make a log of every key you type on your keyboard.  They can be put there by criminals or by a partner or spouse who is worried about your fidelity.

Sometimes a website puts a cookie in your browser so when you return to the website it knows you were there before and may change the website’s appearance to fit with your previous behavior on the website.
Spyware can slow down your computer to the point it is no longer viable. Often people have to get their operating system reinstalled to get rid of them and lose all their data and files in the process.

Ducktoes can prevent this. Call 403-219-3031.

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