Spyware is a type of malicious software that collects information without your knowledge, typically sending it to a third party, or directing ads to your computer without your permission.
Unlike viruses and worms, spyware is not self-replicating, and thus does not spread from one infected machine to another. It does, however, allow the author of the spyware to exploit your machine in a number of ways:
- Direct pop-up ads to your computer
- Redirect your browser to advertising or malware-infected sites
- Steal your usernames and passwords from legitimate sites
- Steal your credit card and other financial details
You can minimize spyware infections in two ways:
- Know what you are installing. If a pop-up window requests permission to install software and you did NOT request it, cancel the operation.
- Install an anti-spyware solution. There are several inexpensive and even free options available from trusted companies.