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What Is Spyware?

The term “spy” often conjures images of James Bond and government agents, but today, even ordinary people have to contend with spies—or rather, spyware.

Spyware are programs that send information about the user to other computers without their knowledge or consent. This information could be personal data (like name or address) or browsing and download history.

Spyware is used for different reasons. Some programs force the internet browser to take the user to a particular site. It can automatically dial 900 numbers (which charge per minute!) or cause the browser to make a particular website its home page. It can also sell the personal information to other websites or companies, leading to a barrage of personal ads or marketing information.

Sometimes spyware is included in other programs like RealPlayer and Kazaa, and downloaded as part of the “terms of use.” More often than not, however, spyware is installed secretly, while the user is browsing a website. Often this website sends a pop up box requesting permission to install a particular file in order to display a particular image or video.

Spyware can be annoying, but it also breaks very serious privacy and control laws. It is unregulated, so it can access personal data and even hijack personal resources (like bandwidth and computer memory) to “work” for another corporation.

Unfortunately Spyware is widespread. It is believed that 9 in 10 computers are infected with Spyware. Some signs include slow processing (due to programs that are using memory capacity), high incidents of pop ups, mysterious bookmarks, ads that use your name even if you haven’t registered, and a sudden and authorized change in home page.

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