What are spyware and viruses anyway?

What is spyware?

Spyware is software that someone puts on your computer that watches what you do and sends this information to some third party.

Spyware gets on our computers as we travel the internet by visiting web pages that put it in your computer, by e-mail, by Trojan horse style viruses, and a number of other sources. Some spyware is harmless–for instance if you search for banking information online, the banner ads on the places you visit will start to be financial ads. If you search for sporting goods, you will begin to see different ads oriented to the outdoors. This is the advertisers on the internet at work. In most cases these types of spyware do not interfere with your use of your computer. But some advertisers are much more aggressive, and they will load up software on your computer that will usurp your home page settings and your search settings. They can bombard you with pop-up ads, and even put pornography onto your computer. They often disable many windows functions that allow you to remove them. These unscrupulous people wreak havoc on your computers performance, and often try to steal your personal information in an attempt at identity theft.

What are Viruses?

Spyware is bad enough, but viruses are even worse. Viruses include software that delivers a harmful payload when executed, Trojan horse programs that create hidden user accounts or backdoors, rootkits that upload personal information invisibly, worms that infect e-mail servers and spread to all your friends, and other threats. In addition to this keystroke loggers can send every word you type on your computer to someone without you even knowing it.

In the computer world, we call all of this Mal-ware. Keeping your computer free of it is what this site is about.