Spyware 101: What It Is, Why It’s Harmful and How To Rid Your Computer of It

Spyware may be found on the computers of anyone who accesses the internet with any frequency and, while most spyware programs are relatively harmless, some of them can cause major damage to your system, including crashing hard drive, rendering your computer inoperable. If you have never had an encounter with spyware, let this article serve as a primer regarding what spyware is, why it should be removed from your computer as soon as you know your machine is infected, how to remove it and how to protect your computer in the future.

What is Spyware?

There are generally two major groups of spyware, Adware and Malware, Adware being the most common form. Its purpose is to steal anonymous data for specific advertising. Generally speaking, Adware is just irritating and annoying; however it can sometimes be much more destructive. Malware, the less common form of spyware, is specifically designed to cause problems on your computer. Viruses, Trojans, keyloggers and hijacking spyware, the most common types of malware, are specifically written to gain access to personal information such as banking passwords, credit card and social security numbers and other financial information. Most spyware programs are written so that the programs change the settings on a computer thus allowing an attacker to gain access to the computer.

Why do I need to get rid of Spyware?

There are several reasons why you should get rid of spyware as soon as you’re aware that it has infected your system, even if it does not appear to pose an immediate threat to your computer. Here are just a few of those reasons:

Pornographic advertising: Spyware that creates targeted advertisements can be a huge problem, especially when it comes to pornography. If someone visits a pornographic site just once, by accident, spyware will send out pornographic advertisements almost every time you connect to the internet. This can pose a serious problem if children the same computer as the adults, as neither they nor you have any control over what advertisements are going to pop up.

Annoying pop ups: Spyware causes annoying distractions in the form of pop ups that simply waste your time and energy.

Computer Memory: Spyware can and will get into your system and use your computer’s memory. Sometimes it will attach itself to running programs and create duplicates of legitimate files, thus creating hiding places for itself; at other times it will be used with malicious intent such as e-mailing spam or viruses to everyone in your address book.

Computer settings: Spyware can change a browser’s homepage and several other settings on the computer without your knowledge or permission. This can include your firewall and security protection.

How do I remove Spyware?

While it may seem difficult to do, you can remove spyware by yourself fairly easily. Here are some simple steps to remove spyware from your computer:

1. Check your system for running programs and make sure you save all your data before you start removing the spyware.

2. Restart your computer in Safe Mode.

3. Download the spyware removal program of your choice: CWShredder, Spybot Search and Destroy and Ad-Aware are excellent programs. These are all programs that will completely remove any spyware found on your computer.

4. Reboot and check your computer to make sure the spyware has been removed. If you find that you still have some spyware on your computer then you may need to un-check the system restore feature as spyware and viruses like to attach themselves to files in this sector of the computer then re-run the spyware removal program.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of why you should remove spyware from your computer and how to do it if the need arises. Some anti-spyware and spyware removal programs are free while others have to be purchased or subscribed to. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you err on the side of caution and, should you discover spyware on your machine, remove it quickly to lessen likelihood of major, irreparable harm to your system.

Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Spyware 101: What It Is, Why It’s Harmful and How To Rid Your Computer of It." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 13 Jul. 2009. Web. 31 Aug. 2015. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/584/spyware-101-what-it-is-why-its-harmful-and-how-to-rid-your-computer-of-it/ >.

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By . Originally published July 13, 2009. Last modified July 13, 2009.