These are programs secretly placed on your PC that gather information about you (such as your surfing habits, what other software you have on your PC, etc.) without your knowledge or consent. Spyware is mostly used by on-line or software companies for marketing purposes.
So how does a firewall help to stop all of these bad things from happening?
Firewall controls communications to and from your PC. It permits or denies communications based on a Security Policy.
According to the security policy you set for it, a firewall can...
- Make your PC invisible on the Internet. Your ports don't just appear closed; they don't even appear at all. This is very good!
- Automatically block suspicious incoming traffic;
- Alert you every time a program on your PC tries to send information to another computer. This stops Spyware and Trojans from sending hackers your confidential information, such as credit card details and passwords;
- Do a lot more things too, but these are the most basic and important functions it carries out.
Is it the same as Adware?
Adware is legally installed software that tracks your online behaviour while you surf the Web. Some adware programs transmit this information to online advertisers, who can then target you with advertising based on your surfing habits.
What sort of personal information can Spyware and adware send to other people?
Adware can send a record of the websites that you have visited.
Spyware is different. Some kinds of Spyware called keyloggers can record all of your keystrokes and transmit them without your knowledge. This means that all of your passwords and credit card details can be compromised.
What harm can these programs cause?
Apart from the disastrous effects of identity theft, Spyware also causes numerous side effects.
If you've noticed that your PC has become slow and unreliable, has trouble connecting and acts strangely when you're surfing the Internet, then it's likely you've got Spyware on your system.
The slowness and unreliability comes from the Spyware consuming your system's memory and processing power at the expense of the programs you actually want to run.
The strange behaviour when you're online can include your home page changing and your browser redirecting you to sites that you've never heard of, let alone wanted to visit. Often these are pornography, financial services, or pharmaceutical sites. In other words, the sort of things those spammers try to sell you!
Even more alarming is the emergence of stealth dialers. These are programs that, once placed on your machine, proceed to dial up premium-rate international phone numbers. You don't know they're there until you receive a gigantic, inexplicable phone bill at the end of the month!
In a recent survey by AOL, 80% of the users had some form of Spyware or adware on their machines. Of these, 90% did not know about the infection and, even worse, didn't even know what Spyware was!
For these reasons, Spyware has replaced viruses as the number one security threat to PCs.
How can I stop Spyware from getting onto my PC?
Popular free applications like music-sharing programs and even instant messaging software can come with Spyware or adware bundled. If in doubt, don't install these programs.
Keep your web browser up-to-date with Microsoft's security patches by going to Microsoft's Update Page: Here
And make sure you NEVER click on links in Spam messages, no matter how tempting it is! These links will often open sites that download Spyware and hijack your browser.
How can I stop Spyware from stealing my personal information?
You should install a personal firewall to stop Spyware "phoning home" in the event that it does get onto your system.
How can I detect and remove Spyware from my PC?
Download a Spyware detection and removal tool.
Be very wary about downloading Spyware removal tools, because many 'anti-Spyware products' actually install Spyware of their own on your computer!
Further reading go to Google and input Spyware removal tools