Spyware and Your Computer

How Your Computer Gets Spyware

happy-woman-using-computerSpyware usually ends up in your machine because of something you do, like clicking a button on a pop up window, installing a software package or agreeing to add functionality to your Web browser. These programs often use trickery to get you to install them, from fake system alert messages to buttons that say “delete” when they really install spyware. Here are some of the general ways that spyware finds its way into your computer:

Drive by download

This is when a Web site or pop-up window automatically attempts to download and install spyware in your machine. The only warning you might get would be your browser’s standard message telling you the name of the software and asking if it’s okay to install it. If your security settings are set low enough, you won’t even get the warning.

Piggybacked software setup

Some applications — particularly peer-to-peer file sharing clients — will install spyware as a part of their conventional setup procedure. If you don’t read the installation list closely, you mightn’t discover that you are getting more than the file sharing application you want. This is especially true of the “free” versions that are advertised as choices to software you’ve got to buy. As the old expression goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Browser add-ons

These are pieces of software that add enhancements to your Web browser, like a toolbar, animated pal or additional search box. Occasionally, these really do what they say they will do but also include elements of spyware as part of the deal. Or sometimes they are nothing more than thinly veiled spyware themselves. Particularly nasty add-ons are considered browser hijackers — these embed themselves deeply in your machine and take quite a lot of work to eliminate.

Masquerading as anti spyware — This is one of the cruelest tricks in the publication. This kind of software convinces you that it is a tool to find and remove spyware.