Spyware And Internet Security 101
If you aren't a heavy computer user, you may have never heard of spyware. Even if you have heard of it, you may have ignored all the buzz about spyware. After all, it isn't that big a deal, right? Actually, spyware is a very serious problem. This software is designed to gather information about your financial and personal information, including all of your online activity. In the hands of someone who has created spyware, this information can cause a lot of damage. People who don't know how unsafe it is to use computers without spyware protection are as open to attack as a bank that doesn't lock the doors.
If you are uninformed about spyware, it is time to learn how it works and how to protect your computer. Spyware, as the name implies, is software that is created to spy on you in a way that allows it to go undiscovered. It collects all sorts of data, from where you go on the internet to what passwords you use. If this doesn't worry you, you may not be thinking about all of the things you do on the internet, including shopping with your credit cards, online banking and even inputting your social security number on secure sites, such as online tax programs. The information that is gathered goes right to the creator of the spyware program, who can use the information to steal your identity, ruin your credit and do all sorts of additional damage.
So, how do you even get spyware on your computer when you don't download programs or open email attachments? Unfortunately, spyware doesn't need your help to arrive on your computer. All you have to do is visit an infected website. If you are without spyware protection, you'll never even realize the website downloaded a program to your computer. It only takes seconds for the damage to occur and you don't have to do anything to start the process. Simply visiting the site will trigger the download. Besides collecting information, some of these nasty little programs come with an unwelcome bonus - a trojan virus. Knowing that websites can just download spyware doesn't help if you don't know which types of websites to avoid. Usually, if a website is set up to provide free downloads of porn, warez, or mp3s, it is set up so the owner can profit from unsuspecting victims. As you click on a download link for a cool new game, you are actually setting yourself up for a major mess. It looks like nothing bad happened, since you get the game and it seems to work.
However, along with the game, a spyware maker will have added programs that look like innocent helper applications for the game, but are actually collecting your information. You find out what is going on when you are bombarded by useless junk mail and your computer slows to a turtle's pace from all the viruses on your hard drive. Then, you get your credit card statements and realize that they are filled with charges someone else made. Of course, spyware makers aren't going to depend on just one way to get their nasty little surprise on your hard drive. They also love to include spyware with free software programs. Remember the old adage "You don't get something for nothing." whenever you decide to opt for free software instead of paying for an application from a reputable software manufacturer. Another trick that spyware makers have recently started using is requiring people who download their free movies or mp3s to use a media player they have created to play them. Of course, that media player comes complete with spyware and viruses. You may be wondering how to find out whether you already are infected with spyware.
The easiest way to see if something is going on is to look at your computer's performance. Is it moving very slowly? Does it take a long time for your browser to respond? Do windows and ads you didn't open pop up on your screen? Those are all signs that point to a spyware infestation on your computer. Once you realize that you have a problem, you'll need to deal with it right away. The easiest way is to get an anti-spyware program, such as Lavasoft Adaware or spybot Search and Destroy. They will clear up your current problem. Then, you should stop them from coming back with a combined protection plan that uses anti-virus software and a good firewall program. The anti-spyware program will catch any programs that somehow manage to get through the cracks. Remember, spyware programs are nothing to fool around with. As annoying as it is to have popups opening faster than you can close them, having a big financial mess to clean up is even worse.
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