86. About Spyware
Although viruses, worms, and Trojan horses pose potential dangers for your home network, up-to-date antivirus software and common sense in terms of downloading and opening unknown files can go a long way toward minimizing the threat. However, a new flavor of malwarecalled spywarehas become the most prevalent, pervasive, and annoying threat to the personal computer.
Spyware is malware that covertly gathers information using the computer's Internet connection. Spyware is often hidden in free software and other programs that can be downloaded from the Web. Spyware can actually monitor a user's activity on the Web and gather information related to product preferences and browsing history. Some spyware can also gather information related to passwords and other transactions on the Web, including transactions where you enter a credit card number.
Spyware Malware that infects your computer through free software and downloads from websites. Spyware gathers information related to the user, such as browsing preferences and information used in Web transactions such as passwords and credit card numbers.
A spyware infection typically has symptoms such as slower computer functionality (because the spyware uses the computer's system resources, including memory) and a seeming slowing of the Internet connection. The problem with spyware is that it actually edits the Windows registry and makes itself part of the Windows configuration, just as "normal" programs do when they are installed.
An even more insidious type of spyware, called a rootkit, actually activates during your system bootup; rootkits are difficult to detect because they are up and running before antispyware and antivirus software loads. Spyware rootkits can install all sorts of hidden files on your system and even intercept data from the network.
Spyware has really become a big problem both in terms of your computer's performance (spyware saps system resources) and the fact that personal information can be stolenparticularly if you use your computer for online purchases. Some antispyware software suggestions are provided in Install AntiSpyware.
Your computer can also become infected with adware, software that is included as part of free software or a service on a particular website. Adware can create those annoying pop-up ads. Adware can be removed from your system using some of the same tools that remove spyware from your system. However, to run some free software, such as Imesh and Morpheus (both peer-to-peer music file sharing applications that install adware on your system), you might have to put up with the adware, which is basically a "cost" of using software for which you've made no monetary payment.