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Is your computer or laptop running slow or behaving irrationally? You may have spyware or even a virus on your machine. It’s very easy to get an infection these days, and once the infection is in your computer, it can spread and simply get worse over time. Infections can also compromise your security and leave you vulnerable to hackers, display incorrect search pages and collect personal information such as bank passwords.
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Spyware infections, what is Spyware ?
Spyware is a general term used to describe software that performs certain behaviors, generally without appropriately obtaining your consent first, such as:
Collecting personal information
Changing the configuration of your computer
Spyware is often associated with software that displays advertisements (called adware) or software that tracks personal or sensitive information.
Trading tracking for services
That does not mean all software that provides ads or tracks your online activities is bad. For example, you might sign up for a free music service, but you “pay” for the service by agreeing to receive targeted ads. If you understand the terms and agree to them, you may have decided that it is a fair tradeoff. You might also agree to let the company track your online activities to determine which ads to show you.
What spyware does
Other kinds of spyware make changes to your computer that can be annoying and can cause your computer slow down or crash.
These programs can change your Web browser’s home page or search page, or add additional components to your browser you don’t need or want. They also make it very difficult for you to change your settings back to the way you had them.
The key in all cases is whether or not you (or someone who uses your computer) understand what the software will do and have agreed to install the software on your computer.
A common trick is to covertly install the software during the installation of other software you want such as a music or video file sharing program.
Whenever you install something on your computer, make sure you carefully read all disclosures, including the license agreement and privacy statement. Sometimes the inclusion of unwanted software in a given software installation is documented, but it might appear at the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.
What is a virus ?
Computer viruses are small software programs that are designed to spread from one computer to another and to interfere with computer operation. A virus might corrupt or delete data on your computer, use your e-mail program to spread itself to other computers, or even erase everything on your hard disk. Viruses are often spread by attachments in e-mail messages or instant messaging messages. That is why it is essential that you never open e-mail attachments unless you know who it’s from and you are expecting it. Viruses can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files. Viruses also spread through downloads on the Internet. They can be hidden in illicit software or other files or programs you might download.