Spyware and Adware - Why You Should Care

Through the years, the Internet has given way to many great things. It has brought people together from around the world. It has revolutionized the way we do business and earn money. The Internet has even played critical parts in preventing wars.

Where do we get most of our information today? Usually, it's from one of three sources: television, newspapers, and the Internet. More and more we are turning away from television and newspaper sources to Internet reporters, blogs, and social media for information.

However, the 'net has a bad side too.

Just as in real life, there are people with good intentions and bad intentions on the Internet.

There are those who write tiny bits of code to steal your financial information, track your browsing history, display unwanted ads, and even control your browser.

These bits of code are called spyware and adware.

Spyware has a simple purpose: to spy on your activities and mine what data it can - then send that data back to its creator.

A spyware program can sit undetected just waiting to steal your information.

For example, a spyware program may wait for you to visit your bank's website. As soon as it detects that you are entering your bank login information or credit card number, it activates and records that data. It will then send your passwords and credit card information to the creator of the spyware. That person can then steal your identity or ruin you financially. It sounds like a far-off plot, doesn't it? However, it's happening every day.

There are several types of spyware: data miners, tracking cookies, and keyloggers.

A data miner will search your hard drive for anything it may find valuable; such things could include passwords, credit card numbers, financial data, family information, and the like.

Tracking cookies are used by several major ad companies - including Zedo, Adtmt, and DoubleClick. I hate tracking cookies with a passion. Tracking cookies are a unique form of spyware that tracks what websites you visit. This information is sent to advertisers to target advertisments to you and your computer. While not strictly illegal, this is morally ambiguous at best as it happens without user knowledge or consent. Tracking cookies are the most common form of spyware. Fortunately, these are easy to remove by clearing your browser's cookies. Tracking cookies are also a form of adware.

A key logger is, perhaps, the most nefarious type of spyware. A key logger installs itself into the heart of your computer's operating system and records everything you type - passwords, emails, bank information...anything. These are horrid because they can steal your login information for any website you visit, record your financial info, and more. They are also the most difficult to remove.

All Platforms

While some computers and operating systems are more secure than others, never fool yourself into thinking you are immune from spyware and adware. Any computer can be infected - whether it runs Microsoft Windows, Apple's Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, or whatever. If a computer is connected to the internet, it's at risk.

Spyware Removal

Fortunately, there are numerous programs to remove spyware. Spyware removers are everywhere on the web. Some are free, and some are not.

While you should get a spyware remover, it's also good practice to clean out your internet cache regularly. Delete your cookies and browsing history. Doing this will help keep down your risk of infection.

If you are serious about protecting yourself, look into downloading or buying a program that will scan for, detect, and remove spyware and adware.