How to Prevent Spyware

By: Derren Fung

What is spyware?

Spyware is a broad category of software that is installed on computers without the user's consent, for monetary purposes. They are the usual suspects for causing excessive pop ups, changing your home page, taking you to advertisement or pornographic web sites that you did not request and even making your PC slow and unstable.

What does spyware do?

The purpose of spyware is not to do anything destructive like a virus, as the spyware makers use it for financial gain, but spyware will cause your PC to become slow and unstable. The more spyware that is on a system, the slower and less stable the PC can become.

That is not the only problem with spyware. The use of spyware has become controversial in the way that they are also considered an invasion of privacy and even a security threat. The purpose of many spyware programs is to display adverts or to sell things, but others are installed on PCs to gather information about your surfing habits. This may be simply what websites you visit, and most people may not mind but some spyware is also known to log keystrokes. This means that if you visit your bank's website and log into your Internet Banking account, you may have submitted your log in details to the spyware author. This goes for any other websites you use and require logging in too.

How to prevent spyware

There is no software out there that can completely prevent spyware from infecting your PC because a lot of spyware is bundled with programs that you download and install. When you install such a program, you are in fact granting permission for the spyware to be installed along with the program you downloaded. If you took the time to read the EULA (End User License Agreement) during the installation of certain free programs, it will most likely tell you that they will bundle in software to show you adverts or gather information about your Internet usage. Although there are many spyware programs installed in such a manner, hardly anyone reads the EULA as it's so longwinded. Also, there are spyware programs that trick and scare you into installing them.

Spyware is typically bundled in with programs that users would consider 'fun' or useful. These are generally free software such as peer to peer (P2P) programs for file sharing, free weather reporting utilities that sit in your system tray, clock synchronisation tools, etc.

Although you are unlikely to be able to completely avoid spyware, you can give yourself more control by being aware of what goes in and out of your computer and being more wary.

1. Use a different web browser. Internet Explorer is not your only option. Other web browsers will be less likely to be infected with spyware.

2. Use a different operating system like Linux. Spyware is only know to target Windows operating systems, so using something else would prevent spyware from infecting your PC. Unfortunately, not everyone is will to do this.

3. Install and keep anti-virus software up-to-date. Anti-virus software should be used alongside any spyware scanners you may have.

4. The best advice on how you can prevent spyware from entering your system is to BE AWARE. Be cautious of free software. Many programs are free for a reason.

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