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Spyware and Adware

Spyware and Adware are two more threats to be concerned with. Spywareis malicious software that spies on you by stealing keystrokes, passwords, and other personal data. It is usually written and distributed for someone's personal monetary gain, and is generally well hidden in long licenses you agree to when downloading and installing software. Spyware can make changes to almost any part of your computer, including changes to your Internet home page or what you see when performing an Internet search. Spyware can also cause systemwide slow downs, install malicious toolbars, and collect Internet browsing history data, including passwords and personal information. It can even make changes to the Registry. At best, it is a nuisance, at worst, it is all a person needs to steal your identity or disable your computer.

Adwareis similar. It is a form of spyware and it also collects information about you as you surf the Web. Adware programs use the information collected to display advertisements in the form of pop-ups, ads that are targeted directly at you based on the Web sites you have visited. Adware, like spyware, can slow down your system by hogging system resources. It can also slow down Internet browsing, by using valuable bandwidth on ads. To avoid spyware and adware:

  1. Keep your PC up to date with Windows Update.
  2. Install and use antiadware and antispyware software from such reputable companies as Spybot Search and Destroy, Ad-Aware, and Windows Defender (to be released with Vista).
  3. Use a personal firewall.
  4. Install software only from trusted sources.
  5. Do not open suspicious attachments in e-mail.

Generally, antiadware software catches tracking cookies, which collect information about your Web surfing habits.

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