Spyware is a type of software written by programmers that collects information about people, companies, or organizations, without consent of the victim. This illegal activity is done, often unknowingly, and can be extremely dangerous to your privacy. Spyware is capable of spying on private data and changing the configuration of your computer, such as how often it restarts and what web pages it loads. A very common indicator of spyware is increased pop ups or a change of your browsers homepage.
Spyware can be in many different forms. In most cases, spyware is used to collect data from an individual. Since you permission is not given to give out your data the program may run completely stealth. The data collected is sent via the Internet to a server where it is complied and read by the creator. There are many methods spyware uses to collect information.
Some of the most common ways are through built in features of web browsers, downloaded ActiveX controls, standalone executable programs, or web browser plug-ins.
So lets move to what kind of “data” spyware collects. The two main purposes of spying on a computer is to track web sites, or log keystrokes. Many marketing companies are known for making a type of Spyware called “Adware”. This Adware is used to trace what web sites a user visits and what ads the user may click. Companies can then use this data to optimize on any trends they may notice. Click through rate, and different types of web site layouts are all taken into consideration to separate people from their money.
Logging keystrokes is the second use of spyware I will talk about. One of the most dishonest programs ever created is called the “keylogger”.
Keyloggers are used to steal keystrokes such as passwords, credit card numbers and other personal data, and send them to the hackers computer. These can be one of the most dangerous types of spyware to contract. These programs always run completely secretly and millions of unknowing Americans have personal data stolen every year. Although in recent years, most large and credible anti virus companies have lowered the threats of keyloggers, new ones are being written everyday and still pose a huge threat.
Users who do online banking, or buy items online, are at the greatest risk which is why it is very important to always keep your computer’s anti virus/spyware software up to date and to never download files from untrusted sites no matter how tempting or innocent they seem. One mistake can cost your entire bank account information and your identity.