Whilst you are browsing the internet, small files can be downloaded onto your computer without your permission or knowledge. These files are called spyware, and can be used to share your personal details with third parties without your consent. The issue with spyware is that is is often actually legal, because someone has found a loophole in a website's EULA (End User Licence Agreement). This does not mean it is safe, and spyware can steal your personal information or slow down and even damage your PC.
What does spyware do?
Once spyware reaches your computer, it will spread like a rash. Spyware is very difficult to get rid of, and it can even infect other computers if they are connected on the same network as the infected one. It then 'spies' on your computer and steals you details such as usernames and password, and shares the with third parties.
How will I know spyware is there?
There are some terms you should look out for when browsing the internet. Dialers, adware, password crackers, remote administration tools, jokes and key-loggers are all dangerous terms associated with spyware. However, if your computer has been infected, there is a very small chance that you'll actually know about it.
So what can I do to avoid it?
- Keep your OS and web browser updated.
- Install firewalls for both hardware and software. McAfee VirusScan plus includes both of these.
- Install one of McAfee's anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.
- Don't use a website or agree to any terms and conditions without reading the privacy policies and EULAs first.
- Avoid downloading “free” software which you have found online.
- Manage your computer and security software updates with an Administrator account, and create a different account for your everyday use.
- Don't download things that you don't need, such as emoticons or desktop wallpapers.
- Never click on a strange link in an email unless you know what it is and who it is from.
- Avoid visiting gambling and pornography websites, because these have the highest risk.