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What is Spyware?

Any program that tracks your computer activity without your knowledge or consent is considered spyware. Spyware is generally not designed to cause damage to your computer; rather it gathers personal information about you, monitors your Internet activity, and foists unwanted ads or pop-ups upon you, making your computer slower and less responsive every day .

Spyware can get onto your system by a variety of means. It might be bundled with another program and gets onto your system, or you may accidentally download spyware that masquerades as something else, such as security software.

Generally, adware comes bundled with other applications and it often installs cookies and Registry keys that track your Web surfing habits and then displays targeted ads on your computer. This tracking helps advertisers tailor the ads to things that are likely to interest you. It’s worth nothing that even when you remove the program that the adware came with, the cookies and keys sometimes stay put.

Some people erroneously believe spyware and adware are the same thing. This misperception is likely because the effects of both frequently result in unwanted ads or pop-ups. The primary difference is that you have to grant access to adware, while spyware gets on your computer surreptitiously. For example, if you download freeware, part of the deal may be that you’ll have to see ads when you download the program. Therefore you are agreeing to ads when you download the program, whereas you’d never allow spyware on your system on purpose.

However, adware can become spyware when it crosses a certain line, if, for example, it’s used either without your permission or to steal your personal information.