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Data Security Threats: Spyware, Adware, and Viruses

Data Security Threats: Spyware, Adware, and Viruses

Read on to know more about the different causes of data corruption on your computer via the Internet―spyware, adware, and viruses.
Madhavi Ghare
The Internet has become a way of life for many among us. Surfing the net for information, downloading emails, chatting, and so on, are a part of daily activities for those among us who have computers. When one logs on to the Internet, there are many kinds of threats to data security, which are looming around the corner. Primarily, these threats arise from spyware, adware or viruses that spread via the Internet. When such software are downloaded onto a computer, the user is often not aware of this happening.

The user begins to experience certain things while operating his computer, such as the system slowing down, the system crashing often, data corruption, several pop-up windows opening up when he surfs the net, slowing down of Internet speed, and so on. Worst-case scenarios are when personal information is stolen and used for malicious purposes, or when the hard disk is formatted rendering the computer useless. Let us look at these 3 threats individually.

Spyware

Spyware is installed secretly onto a user's computer in order to spy on the user's computer activity. Personal data, such as passwords or credit card numbers, can be stolen by making a record of the user's keystrokes. It can also interfere with the operation of the computer by installing other software which can slow down the computer normally, and while surfing the net. Such software can also make a record of the websites the user visits frequently. Sometimes spyware is bundled with regular free-to-download programs that are available on the net. The software then install itself on the user's computer and begins to spy on the activities.

Fortunately, there are a variety of spyware detectors available. They perform the function of detecting and removing spyware from a user's computer. However, one should always ensure that these detector software are from a reliable source, as nowadays spyware have even begun to disguise themselves as spyware removal software.

Computer Virus

A computer virus is a program that is able to self replicate or copy itself, and thus infect a computer. Modern computer viruses are able to modify the copies made, or the modified copies are able to modify themselves. These are known as 'Metamorphic Viruses'. A virus spreads from one computer to another via a network or the Internet, and via removable storage media such as CDs, floppy disks, or USB drives. Some viruses disguise themselves as executable files (or .exe) which appear harmless until executed. These are known as 'Trojan Horses'. Some viruses execute only when the computer boots. They are known as 'Boot Sector Viruses'.

Viruses damage programs, delete files, and even re-format hard disks on a user's computer. Some viruses make their presence known under certain instances by displaying a message on the computer screen. Viruses are also known to slow down the system speed of the user's computer, and cause widespread data corruption and loss.

To prevent oneself from virus attacks, it is preferable not to download files from unknown sources, or open emails from unknown senders.

There are a variety of antivirus software available which detect and remove a wide variety of computer viruses. Nowadays, there are several antivirus software which also provide protection from spyware and adware as well.

Adware

Adware literally means 'advertising supporting software'. Once these are installed on a user's computer, they automatically download, play, or display advertising material when the application is used. Some types of adware are also spyware.

Thus, by definition, adware come bundled with some other software. Some programmers see it as a way to recover the costs of programming. The software may be free to use while it will display advertisements, or the user may have an option to pay and disable the ads from being seen.

There are a variety of adware removal tools which are available. They detect and remove adware from a user's computer.

All these are the basic types of data security threats that any surfer on the Internet faces every single day. It is said that 9 out of 10 computers have spyware, adware, or viruses present on them. This opens the door for many malicious elements stepping in and invading your privacy, stealing your data, and causing you a host of other problems. Therefore, it is best that one takes care of their computer by ensuring that a reputed and reliable software, that takes care of all these threats, is installed. Such a software should work in real time, i.e., it should inform the user as soon as the virus/spyware/adware is detected, so that the user can ideally remove the malicious program from his computer.