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Spyware

Spyware is a software that gathers and reports information about a computer user without the user's knowledge or consent. More broadly, the term spyware can refer to a wide range of related malware products which fall outside the strict definition of spyware. These products perform many different functions, including the delivery of unsolicited advertising (pop-up ads in particular), harvesting private information, re-routing page requests to fraudulently claim commercial site referral fees, and installing stealth phone dialers.

Spyware programs make money for their publishers by reporting your Internet travels and sending you advertisements. Some also report your name, e-mail address, and other personal information.


Signs of Spyware

1. If you see pop-up advertisements all the time. Some unwanted software will bombard you with pop-up ads that aren't related to a particular Web site you're visiting. These ads are often for adult or other Web sites you may find objectionable. If you see pop-up ads as soon as you turn on your computer or when you're not even browsing the Web, you may have spyware or other unwanted software on your computer.

2. Your settings have changed and you can't change them back to the way they were. Some unwanted software has the ability to change your home page or search page settings. This means that the page that opens first when you start your Internet browser or the page that appears when you select "search" may be pages that you do not recognize. Even if you know how to adjust these settings, you may find that they revert back every time you restart your computer.

3. Your Web browser contains additional components that you haven't downloaded. Spyware and other unwanted software can add additional toolbars to your Web browser that you don't want or need. Even if you know how to remove these toolbars, they may return each time you restart your computer.

4. Your computer takes longer than usual to complete certain tasks. If you notice a sudden increase in the number of times a certain program crashes, or if your computer is slower than normal at performing routine tasks, you may have spyware or other unwanted software on your machine.

Downloads that may contain spyware

Free games downloaded from the Internet
Music, movies, and other software file-sharing programs
Animated characters for your desktop
Free screen savers downloaded from the Internet
Toolbars for your Internet browser
Free pop-up blockers that appear on your computer when you are online

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