What is spyware? A tutorial

What is spywareSpyware is, as the name suggests, a piece of software which resides on your PC and literally ‘spies’ on you. It can record your surfing habits (which websites you visit and how often) and can target adverts to pop-up when you don’t request them. It usually makes unwanted changes to your computer while collecting information about your computer activities. It is difficult to detect, and particularly difficult (often impossible) for the average user to remove.This information may then be sent to a third party for malicious purposes, without your knowledge or consent. Spyware arrives in many ways:

* Bundled with freeware or shareware programs
* Through a ‘hacker’ who gains access to your PC
* Through e-mail or instant messenger programs
* By downloading a spyware infected file in a file-sharing program
* As an ActiveX installation by simply visiting a malicious website

Anyone that uses a computer is susceptible to a spyware infection. Your online actions, whether you’re surfing the Internet or checking e-mail, can attract spyware files, applications or programs. These programs find their way onto your system and install themselves in several possible places on your PC, including your registry, start up menu, files and folders. Many spyware programs ensure their survival by placing traces of the program throughout your system to make full removal more difficult (and sometimes nearly impossible). Once installed, spyware operates silently in the background. It is in the interest of a Spyware program to survive and resist attempts to remove it. Many will kill the complete Windows installation if they are removed.

Spyware comes in many forms from benign ‘cookies’ to more nefarious spyware programs like trojans, keyloggers and system monitors. These are capable of capturing keystrokes, online screenshots, and personally identifiable information like your bank account numbers, Website logins, passwords, or credit card numbers.

Browser hijackers are generally grouped with spyware and do just that, they take your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox etc) and redirect them to other websites which you have not asked to see. Casino, dating and pornography sites are notorious for this as they pay the spyware authors for each visitor they can send to their site.

Diallers are often installed with spyware and can change your Internet access number to a premium rate or international number which will generate a revenue for the spyware creator. We have seen customers with quarterly telephone bills in excess of £200 from this type of activity. This is seen less now with broadband connections and routers, but often people have left their old dial-up modem connected to the phone socket.

Ultimately, your identity and private information can be compromised by these malicious programs. On a corporate level, spyware can compromise network and data security, corporate assets and trade secrets. Aside from potential identity theft, many spyware programs ‘steal’ from you by cluttering your computer’s memory resources and eating bandwidth as they communicate with the spyware’s home base using your Internet connection. This could lead to your computer suffering system crashes and/or slower performance.

We offer a full spyware/virus/trojan removal service but we don’t stop there. You need to be protected from reoccurrence and unlike many other companies we put methods in place to prevent re-infection. Contact us now for a free quote and we can explain our services in better detail.