Personal Information Security – Spyware

In this article…
What is spyware?
How do you know if you have spyware?
How can you avoid spyware?
What do you do if you already have spyware?
External Links


What is spyware?
Spyware is a general term given to software that is installed on your computer without your knowledge or consent. Typically, they may collect information, change the configuration of your computer, serve popup ads and in some cases, make your computer a part of a network of computers that may launch distributed Denial of Service attacks on other systems.

Spyware is often gets installed covertly by riding on the back of another seemingly benign application. It is also often sold as a spouse monitor, child monitor, a surveillance tool. P2P file sharing programs usually come with other software that serve advertisements and collect users’ data.

How do you know if you have spyware?
Computers infected with spyware usually display one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A barrage of pop-up ads
  • Web browser takes you to sites you did not expect
  • New browser toolbars or icons on your system tray
  • Random error messages
  • Sluggish performance when opening programs or saving files.

How can you avoid spyware?

  • Do not open any email attachments from unknown sources.
  • Even if the source is known, save email attachments, scan them with an anti-virus scanner and then open them.
  • Keep web browsers, operating systems and other software up to date.
  • Download software only from sources that you trust. Your company may have policies regarding downloading and installing software. Be aware of these policies.
  • Do not click on links in pop-up ads. To close the pop-up window, click <CTRL>+W (Control Key and W at the same time).
  • Install a personal firewall. WindowsXP comes with a built-in firewall that can prevent unauthorized access.

What do you do if you already have spyware?

  • Install an anti-spyware software from a source you trust. Some vendors are listed in the external links section
  • Run anti-spyware software at least once a week.
  • Keep the anti-spyware software current by installing all the updates and patches.

Enternal Links
Webroot Software, Inc
Symantec Corporation