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Adware and Spyware

August 12th, 2008

Two of the pieces of computer jargon that often come up in the context of safe computing are Adware and Spyware. It is important to note that these are two separate items, but often contain overlap in terms of the risk they pose to the individual.

Adware is a piece of computer code that resides on your computer that is designed to display advertising to you. Adware can cause pop-ups, slow down your computer by increasing the number of programs running, and can generally be somewhat annoying. Adware is often bundled in with legitimate downloads.

Spyware is a piece of computer code that resides on your computer that monitors you. Spyware can collect information on your Internet browsing habits, including any information that you type into your computer while on the web (such as usernames and passwords). Spyware is generally seen as having greater potential harm to the individual than Adware. Spyware is commonly bundled with illegitimate downloads; it is often times seen in files found on file-sharing networks. To learn more about the risks that file-sharing has for safe computing and kids’ safety, watch Ari Schwartz on identifying Spyware Symptoms (Video in RealPlayer format)   

Both Adware and Spyware are not good for safe computing. So how can you help protect yourself from Adware and Spyware? There are two ways. The first, preventative measures you can take to help keep your computer clean. Pre-ventative Tips:

• Know the symptoms of spyware: Before you can protect yourself from new spyware you have to make sure you do not currently have any on your computer. Learn more about spyware symptoms.
• Learn about examples of the most devious programs: The trickiest part of spyware is that there is not one clear-cut type. Knowing the many forms in which spyware may appear on your computer will help you remove or prevent it. View specific examples of spyware.
• Explore steps you can take to prevent spyware: Prevention is the key to a safe and secure computer. The tips to help you prevent spyware will also help keep viruses and hackers from taking advantage of your computer. Learn more about these prevention tips.

Secondly, there are many tools that will help you rid your computer of Spyware or Adware. You should know that each of the tool providers might define Spyware differently. You, the user, should be able to decide for yourself what you find annoying and want to uninstall or disable. GetNetWise offers a list of many different types of Spyware removal tools here: http://spotlight.getnetwise.org/spyware/tools/

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