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spacer spacer Avoiding Spyware

What is spyware?

Spyware is software with a seemingly useful or entertaining purpose with a hidden mechanism to watch your browsing habits.

Spyware is most common among free software, and is often packaged to look like a pop-up/pop-under advertisement that offers a free computer game or incentive. (Punch the monkey and get a free iPod!) Spyware can come in SPAM as well. Once a user downloads and installs the software, spyware is activated to monitor the user's browsing habits and then send that information to an outside computer for use with targeted advertising campaigns. Unfortunately, spyware is not legally considered a virus. Companies offering the software often require the user to accept an End User License Agreement (EULA), and the EULA can include a clause that gives the company permission to both spy on the user's browsing habits and allocate the user's system resources for this purpose.

As a general rule, avoid free software from apparently well-organized companies.

For a complete list of spyware programs visit

Beware the ActiveX control

When ActiveX first came out it gave users an easy way to install Macromedia Shockwave or Flash; play a movie file in Media Player without a large download or the need to close and reopen the browser window; and install security patches for Windows. Some companies exploited ActiveX and used it to create pop-up advertisements, or to change Internet Explorer's start page without the user's knowledge. An unsolicited pop-up asking permission to install ActiveX software, even if the alert claims the software has been digitally signed, is most likely something you don't want. Only accept software downloads and installs from trusted sources.

Get rid of spyware:

Most spyware heavily resists attempts to remove it from the hard disk. It is possible to get rid of the main software using the Uninstall function in Add/Remove Programs, but even when the main software is deleted the spying programs and processes often remain active. The IT Group recommends running a regular virus scan and installing the free software from Spybot Search & Destroy. The SS&D website has an excellent tutorial on removing spyware from your computer.


Updated: January 22, 2013 KSC Photos on SmugMug Subscribe to the KSC RSS news feed Keene State on Facebook Keene State on Twitter Keene State on YouTube

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