Spyware Definition

Software that sends information from your computer to a third party without your consent

Spyware is any software that sends personal information (e.g. Web sites you visit, email addresses, passwords) from your computer to a third party without telling you and without your consent. Spyware differs from malware in that it takes information from your computer, while malware damages your computer.

Many people include adware (software that displays advertising banners in your browser) under the heading of “spyware” because adware often has spyware included in it. This adware can sometimes slow down your machine, make pop-up ads appear on your desktop, or change the settings on your computer. Many of these programs do not clearly state what the application will do or whether spyware is included, and they can be very difficult to uninstall.

There are a few different ways you can get spyware on your computer. Spyware is sometimes installed on your machine when you download free software, such as file-sharing applications and games. However, you don’t even need to download anything to get spyware: some spyware is installed on your machine just by visiting certain Web sites. This is called a “drive-by” installation. Spyware can also be loaded onto your computer without your knowledge when you open certain email attachments.

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