Spyware another form of malware, which does exactly what its name implies. It spies on you through the use of your computer. Twenty years ago only a subject of science fiction, it is today a hard reality.
Spyware consists of a computer program that collect personal information or other data stored on your computer, and then sends it to the originator of the spyware.
There are several methods used by spyware in order to secretly collect information. Some of these are as follows:
- "Key logging" is a method by which the spyware keeps track of what keys you strike while you are at your computer. This is useful for detecting passwords, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and other personal information.
- Other spyware keeps track of your web browsing habits, which can then be used to build a personal profile of you, discovering your interests, who you contact, and what you visit. When this data is transmitted it can then be sold to advertising agencies, who can then use it to send tailored advertising to you.
- Another form of spyware can simply scan your hard disk and send copies of your files to the originator of the spyware.
- Some companies incorporate forms of spyware into their software, which give feedback to the company of your use of their programs. These are not considered malware or harmful software. But these programs still watch your computer activity and keep track of your usage, usually without your knowledge. While this might be considered "legitimate," it is, however still an invasion of your privacy if you have not given your express consent. In any case, this practice uses your computer resources for somebody else's gain.
While the above explanations and descriptions are far from complete, it does serve to give a general picture of what forms computer viruses, malware and spyware can take.