What is spyware.

Caroline, good question! First let us talk about MALWARE. Malware is any kind of software that had a MALevolent (or bad) purpose. Spyware is a subset of malware. Malware may be something destructive which would damage the operating system or delete important things from the hard drive or registry. In the late 1990s the trend was to design such destructive malware. SPYWARE is a program that installs itself on your computer and then feeds back information about what you type or email. Actually there are companies and websites which plant COOKIES in your browser to report back to them what sort of websites you visit so that they may target you with advertisements based upon your interests or preferences. Other types of malware do what is called PHISHING (which sounds like Fishing) namely, they make themselves look like a login page from Facebook or some other application and tell you you must log in again. Once they have your user name and password then they use software to log into your account as you, go through all your friends list or email address book and spam your friends with advertisements or perhaps links which they will click on which will in turn trick them into revealing their login Identity and password. Other types of malware simply try to spread themselves to as many machines as possible and do nothing other than report their presence back to the program author through the Internet. Hackers who create such malware simply see it as a game to see how many thousands or millions of computers they may affect. There are some excellent free anti-malware programs available. I use two of them. http://malwarebytes.org has a free one. You must update the virus signatures each day (or each time you use it) which takes about 2 minutes, and then you run a scan which can take an hour on 80 gig drives or longer on larger drives. At the end Malwarebytes will report how many dangerous programs it found and remove them. Malwarebytes will also remove the so-called TRACKING COOKIES left on your machine when you shop on-line. The tracking cookie tries to report back to the company which sites you browse and what your shopping interests are. The second program I use is Avira Antivir. There is a free Classic version and also a paid version which is more automatic and has a built in firewall. We have three computers and one of them is what my wife uses for banking and bill paying so we have Premium paid Avira on that one with the firewall. A firewall program senses when an unknown program from the internet is trying to gain access to your computer AND ALSO sense when an unauthorized program ON your computer is trying to send a message out to the Internet. Many malware programs need to use a connection to the internet to communicate information back to the hacker programmer. This is why a firewall can be important. I hope this answers some of your questions about what Spyware is. We must always be very careful not to open email messages which contain attachments and come from people we do not know as the opening of the attachment might install malware on your computer. Even Microsoft Access, Word, Excel and Powerpoint have the VBA language which is sometimes used to install Malware. Whenever I open Word or Access or Excel it always asks me if I want to ENABLE the VBA and I say NO unless I really need it for something.

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