A spyware is a software which is installed on your computer without you knowing about it and without your consent, which intercepts or takes partial control over your interaction with the computer.
The term 'Spy' ware also suggests that it makes a note of your behavior on the computer and it may often collect different types of personal information such as your web browser activity, keystrokes, etc. Spyware have also been known to steal credit card information. These are known as 'Stealware'.
This kind of spyware also installs additional software which might install harmful viruses and open a variety of pop-up windows while you are surfing the Internet and then divert advertising revenues from those pop-up ads to a third party.
All this can eventually result in your computer slowing down. The spyware may also alter your computer's settings which may cause your Internet speed to slow down.
When such spyware begins to display advertisements in pop-up windows, it is termed as 'Adware'. Spyware differs from viruses and worms due to the fact that it doesn't replicate itself.
Where Do Spyware Come From
Spyware can be downloaded automatically onto your computer from malicious websites. This is known as a 'drive-by download'. The makers exploit the security vulnerabilities in the code of the browser.
Some spyware are installed onto your computer when you install another program, because they are bundled with the software program and you don't know it. This process is known as 'Piggybacking'. Some shareware programs are often known to do this activity.
Sometimes, it is presented as helpful software, for example, as a 'web accelerator' or something similarly helpful.
As such, anyone who surfs the Internet is vulnerable to have it installed on their computer. It is said that at least 9 out of 10 computers have some kind of a spyware installed on them, and most users are not even aware of it.
However, there are solutions to these problems. Over the Internet, you will find many free to download software which will claim to be antispyware or antivirus. As you have read above, you might just be landing out of the frying pan and into the fire. It makes sense to double check the reliability and the usefulness of such a program before you download it onto your computer.
However, there are quite a few well-known brands which do offer free antispyware downloads. These include Windows Defender, Ad-Adware SE, Spybot - Search & Destroy, HijackThis, and Spy Sweeper.
Different antivirus companies also entered the fray and began adding antispyware features to their software. Most of these free downloads are available on the Internet.
Antispyware works just like your antivirus software, in that it can detect and remove spyware on your computer as and when it is being installed. Some also schedule a regular scan of your computer (daily, weekly, monthly) to detect and remove spyware installed on your computer.
Free Antispyware Downloads: What To Look For
So, before you go off and download a free antispyware software, there are certain things that you need to look for. They are:
- Features: You need to see what features it offers to detect and remove the spyware. A good one will also offer a description of the spyware installed, so that you may decide whether you want to keep it or not. Another feature to look for is an 'Undo' feature for when you have made a mistake.
- Reliability issues: Check if the company, website, or brand is reliable. You don't want to end up downloading a spyware disguised as an antispyware! There are many data corruption risks associated with such unknowns. Better to be safe than sorry!
- Install and Uninstall: Is it easy to install or uninstall the program? Or do you need to be a techie to do it?
- Help: Does it feature a Help Section to which you can turn to in case you are in trouble or want to know more? Is the help detailed and really helpful to you?
- Real Time Effectiveness: Check if it offers real-time protection from spyware.
- Usability Issues: See if it is easy to use.
- Customization: Can you customize the way it works? For example, can you select only a few areas of your computer to be scanned, or can you customize it to automate certain tasks? These things will make your life easier. Of course, this depends on your personal preferences with regards to the software.
- Upgrade Issues: You need to know if it has free or paid upgrades. Some free to download software may offer only paid upgrades. It makes sense to check it out.
No matter what you choose or decide, spyware are a fact when you are looking at surfing the Internet. Getting a good antispyware is the best answer to combat the looming threat posed by such malicious products in order to protect your privacy from being invaded in such a sneaky manner.