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The term “spyware” refers to any computer technology that gathers and redistributes personal information about a person or organization without their knowledge or consent. Most commonly, it installs itself on a computer to secretly gather information about the user that is then sent to advertisers and other interested parties. Spyware can be installed on a computer any number of ways—as part of a new software application, a “drive-by” web site, or even a computer virus.
“As many as one out of three PCs contains spyware that can secretly record and transmit sensitive personal information.”Dan Tynan
Although they may still pose a threat to personal privacy, data collection and dissemination programs that are installed with the user's full knowledge and consent may not be considered spyware. Some Internet marketing companies argue that only when the user is unaware, by design, that the program is collecting and redistributing personal information is the software appropriately considered “spyware.”
Contrary to some beliefs, most spyware programs do not attempt to take control of your computer. One exception is CoolWebSearch. A small application that will remove this program is called CWShredder. If you are having trouble removing CoolWebSearch, please contact your local computer technician.
The malicious nature of spyware is somewhat subversive. Some will send advertisers a report on all the sites you visit, while others will send information about your computing or online purchasing habits. The potential even exists for spyware to capture more important information like your Internet Protocol address or your credit card number.
The most effective tool against spyware is common sense. For instance, you should read the End User License Agreement(EULA) attached to any software that you install. In the EULA, many programs indicate that they include spyware components. Nearly all peer-to-peer file sharing clients come bundled with adware or spyware.
Another way you can protect against spyware is to run an application that can identify and remove it. PC Magazine reviews nine different software packages that get rid of everything from cookies to adware to Trojans.
Recently, programs have appeared on the Internet that claim to remove spyware infections, but in fact, contain spyware. The best defense against this type of program is Due Diligence. Do your homework, and fully research any program you may potentially download and install. You can read about one of these programs in a story posted by Secure Florida.
In the words of Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier, “Ultimately, the solution to stopping spyware—and other scams—lies with the user. Spyware removal and detection software can be useful, but the best way to fight it is by making sure it is not installed on your computer in the first place.”
In the end, the best spyware-stopper is an informed computer user.
For more information, you can read:
- The Best Spyware Stopper (News Factor)
- Spyware: How to fight back against insidious attacks from cookies gone bad (Network World Fusion)
There are several spyware detection and removal programs that are free for non-commercial use. These are a few examples available from Download.com: