3B Tech Computers

What is Spyware, and What Can I Do About It?

(a free technology guide from 3B Tech Computers, 3431 William Richardson Dr. South Bend, IN 46628)

Spyware is a kind of computer program used for advertising, collecting personal information, or changing the configuration of your computer without asking.  Spyware is often associated with software that displays advertisements (called adware) or software that tracks personal or sensitive information.

Many computer users were introduced to spyware in 1999, when a popular free game called "Elf Bowling" came bundled with tracking software.

That does not mean all software that provides ads or tracks your online activities is bad. For example, there are free music or game services that you “pay” for by agreeing to receive targeted ads. If you understand the terms and agree to them, you may have decided that it is a fair tradeoff. You also might agree to let the company track the websites you visit to determine which ads to show you.

The key is whether or not you understand what the software will do, and if you agree to install it on your computer.  The bad kind of spyware makes changes to your computer that can be annoying and can cause your computer slow down or crash.  These programs can change your Web browser's home page or search page, or add toolbars to your browser you don't need or want. These programs also make it very difficult for you to change your settings back to the way you originally had them.

There are a number of ways spyware or other unwanted software can get on your computer. A common trick is to covertly install the software during the installation of other software you want such as a music or video file sharing program.  Whenever you install something on your computer, make sure you carefully read the license agreement and privacy statement. Sometimes the inclusion of unwanted software in a given software installation is documented, but it might appear at the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.

If you think you might have spyware installed on your PC, there are a number of free software tools you can use.  If you see a pop-up window advertising free anti-spyware software on the Internet, you probably should NOT download it; many of these programs remove existing spyware and adware applications, but install its own tracking or adware program.  Our technicians highly recommend AVG Anti Spyware, which you can download at http://free.grisoft.com  More advanced users might also use Spybot Search and Destroy, available at http://www.safer-networking.org


Copyright 2008 by 3B Tech Computers, 3431 William Richardson Dr. South Bend, IN 46628.  This document may be redistributed as long as it is unedited and includes our contact information and the original URL http://www.3btech.biz/resources/spyware_guide.html