Computer Spyware and Malware (The spy to beware of)
by: Michael Goodwin, Lead Computer Technician
If you have been a long resident or a newcomer to Earth then you have surely heard the word ‘SPYWARE’ used. You may have heard it from a friend of a friend of a friend or your son’s best friend down the street that knows how to work on computers. No matter where you heard it or from whom we all get that little cringe in our gut when we hear it. In this document we’ll go over a few personal points and statistical points of what spyware is and what can be done to not only get rid of it, but as well how to protect ourselves from it. Lets get started and dive into ‘What is Spyware’.
Webster’s dictionary defines ‘SPYWARE’ as –
“software that is installed in a computer without the user's knowledge and transmits information about the user's computer activities over the Internet”
Now this can be, and is, interpreted in different ways but the main point here is “..transmits information about the user…”. Almost all of us have heard of companies that over identity protection. Well, SPYWARE is the primary reason for identity and financial information theft. There are other culprits, but for this article we are focusing on spyware because it is the highest risk due to it’s simplicity. Spyware, by definition, is a simple or complex piece of software that is installed on your computer without your permission. There are low, mid, and high risk spyware. Some are not high risk but high annoyance.
Low Risk Malware Security Risk
When I say low risk I’m talking about ones you may be familiar with like toolbars. These are the ones that are hanging out on top of your Internet Explorer (or whichever browser you use, like Chrome, Firefox). They aren’t really much risk but are a high annoyance because they not only slow down your browsing speed and computer but also will transmit data about you and your web habits. So when you go to Amazon.com it will upload this information about you and track other things you are doing. Though these are considered “low-risk” never under estimate them. RISK IS RISK! The only thing they are good for is to bother you so it’s best to just get them removed properly and securely.
Mid risk are (stating the obvious) medium risk. These are usually the more common of spyware. These hold the ability to just be a nuisance, redirecting URL’s (you type in www.Facebook.com but end up at www.BookofFaces.com instead), and like low risk can and will track your web habits and not just transmit data of sites you visit but possibly information you used to access that site such as a login or password.
Category name says it all. High risk spyware are nothing but trouble. They go beyond the term nuisance and fly right into SCARY! Have you heard a horror story from a friend or co-worker about how their bank account was wiped out? These are usually the cause. They don’t care so much about what websites you visit but care more about what data you’re using to access them. They could also be the annoying pop-ups you get saying “You’re computer is infected with viruses click here to purchase [insert software name]”. Once you click “Purchase” and put in your financial information… well, we’ve all heard the stories.
There are so many other factors to spyware but for the purposes of this article we’re going to focus on the primary concerns such as identity and/or financial theft. In our next article we’re going to go over just some tech tips that have been learned over time to, not only speed up the process, but make sure the spyware is removed Safely and Properly.