Spyware Understanding Computers Spyware
Understanding Computers
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  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
  What is Spyware?
Spyware is a program that gathers information about the computer user, often for demographic purposes. Unlike viruses, most spyware is legal. Also called adware by those who produce it, spyware takes many forms. Some forms, like cookies, are relatively benign. Others are annoying, obnoxious or destructive. Some are blatantly illegal. All of them make you feel uneasy, like someone is watching you.
Some of the things that legal spyware does:
  • Crashes your computer
  • Prevents your computer from connecting to the Internet
  • Redirects your web searches to (its) preferred sites
  • Installs toolbars and “search assistants” on your machine
  • Places unwanted icons on your desktop
Some of the things that illegal spyware does:
  • Installs Trojans on your computer
  • Installs other spyware on your computer
  • Tracks your every keystroke
  • Finds your passwords
  • Uses your computer to attack other computers
  How does spyware get on my computer?
Legal spyware gets on your computer in a variety of ways.
Most spyware comes from the Internet:
  • Cookies are placed on your computer by websites that you visit.
  • More aggressive spyware usually accompanies a tempting offer of free software like a screensaver or an "internet optimizer" which is downloaded by the unsuspecting user
  • Spyware often masquerades as a free anti-spyware program. Once you install it your computer is inundated with pop-up ads
  • Some spyware causes bogus warnings to pop-up on your computer urging you to download their program to fix them
  • Spyware publishers often target teenagers who tend be more trusting and have less understanding of the consequences of their actions
  • Illegal spyware can be installed on an unprotected computer without the owner's knowledge
  • Illictly acquired programs can contain trojans which then download spyware.
  Tools for removing spyware
  Many excellent spyware removal programs are available for free. We recommend Spybot Search & Destroy.
Here's a list of the free programs we have used.