If you were to ask the average computer user what spyware is or what
it does, they would probably look at you and shrug. All they probably
have ever been told by others is that it’s caustic to a computer’s
environment and that it’s best to be cleaned off immediately. However,
what exactly is spyware, what harm does it serve to computer users and
how can it be prevented?
Understanding Spyware: What is It?
You probably know enough about spyware
to know that it is bad, but what is it? What does it do that causes
such alarm? You can simply think of spyware as a computer program that
performs questionable behavior without your consent or knowledge. These
behaviors include maliciously changing a computer’s configuration,
scraping/collecting confidential information from your computer, and
Learn to Recognize Spyware
If you’re browsing habits do not typically land you in heaps of
spyware and adware, it can be hard for you to spot it when it’s present.
There are many warning signs that allude to the presence of spyware such as:
- Difficulty removing a program that you don’t remember installing
- Slower computer performance
- Frequent computer crashes
- A changed web browser home/search page
- The presence of plugins or extensions in your browser that you did not install (ie. toolbars)
- Certain settings revert back even after you change them
Other more common signs of spyware are endless pop-ups
that seemingly appear out of nowhere; even if you are not browsing the
internet, the appearance of new icons in the lower right task tray on
Windows, and more. When multiple changes take place on your computer
that you don’t remember authorizing or making yourself, there’s a very
high chance that you could be dealing with spyware.
Luckily, there are ways that you can avoid falling victim to
malicious spyware program writers. Simply using a few precautions will
keep you out of harm’s way of most spyware programs.
1) Read software installation instructions thoroughly. In
fact, before you download anything make sure that it is coming from a
trusted website. Once you have executed the program, setup instructions
will more than likely begin, and you will be prompted to press “Next” to
move through the steps. Be sure to read every bit of text in each text;
this is often where software developers will drop spyware/adware
2) Steer clear of torrent websites and file sharing. File
downloading websites are absolutely notorious for being the sources of
spyware-packed downloads. If at all possible, avoid these websites at
all costs to avoid landing in any sort of trouble with spyware or a more
3)Use add-ons to help you keep spyware at bay. Pop-up
ads are very popular gateways to questionable downloads and uncertain
places on the internet. With the help of add-ons such as pop-up
blockers, you can prevent the possibility of even accidentally clicking
on risky things such as pop-ups.
4)Download an anti-spyware program. This step in
preventing spyware just might be your strongest line of defense against
malicious online threats. Download a reputable and frequently updated
spyware blocker and remover, and keep its definitions and program
version updated to the latest release. Some programs are designed to
stop spyware in its tracks by repelling the attack on the system before
anything is even changed. Additionally, this software is also obviously
great for removing spyware if you’ve accidentally contracted it.
5)Lastly, frequently install the latest updates for your operating system. For
Windows and other similarly popular operating systems, updates are
constantly being rolled out to strengthen the security between a
computer and the internet. Make sure you’re getting the best protection
from your operating system developer by keeping it as up to date as
Alex Faubel enjoys writing about business, technology and computer-science programs in career-focused education.