Spyware is a peculiar, and insidious, type of computer virus

Spyware is any software that covertly gathers User information using the User's internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware software is typically bundled as a hidden component of FREEware antivirus software or SHAREware programs that can be downloaded from the internet. However, it should be noted that the majority of FREEware and SHAREware applications do NOT come with Spyware. Once installed, the Spyware monitors User activity on the internet and transmits that information in the background to someone else. Spyware can also gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords or credit card numbers.

Spyware is similar to a Trojan Horse in that User's unwittingly install the product when they install something else. A common way to become a victim of Spyware is to download certain peer-to-peer file swapping products that are available today. Also, free SCREEN SAVERS often come with spyware!

Aside from questions of ethics and privacy, Spyware steals from the User by using the computer's memory resources and also by eating bandwidth as it sends information back to the Spyware's home base via the User's internet connection. Because Spyware is using memory and system resources, the appications running in the background can lead to a system crash or cause general system instability.

Because Spyware exists in the form of independent executable programs, called ".exe files," they have the ability to monitor keystrokes, scan files on a hard drive, snoop other applications such as chat programs or word processors, install other Spyware programs, read cookies, change the default home page on your web browser, and/or constantly relay all this information back to the Spyware author who will either use it for advertising or marketing purposes or even sell the information to another party.

Licensing agreements that accompany software downloads sometimes warn the User that a Spyware program will be installed along with the requested software, but the licensing agreements are seldom read by User's happy to get something for FREE.  Let the "buyer" beware!

Caution: Spyware programs may remove some GOOD things if you don't watch them closely. For instance, some people, (us included), set their web browser to "come up" with a blank page rather than automatically go to an  ISP's home page. This allows you to type in a web address to visit rather than having to wait for a page you do not want to see to finish loading. To do this, when you choose "Start with a blank page," (and if you use Internet Explorer), two entries are made in your registry so that the browser will "remember" HOW you want it to start up.  Netscape browsers do not do this. Some Spyware programs "flag" these registry changes by I.E. as a "hijacking attempt" and want to delete them. You should put these "good" registry entries into your Spyware "ignore" list.

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