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‘Spyware’ is a form of advertising software that is covertly installed on a person’s personal computer without their knowledge or consent.
Some advertising software today is installed with the consent of the computer owner as a form of payment for the use of a website or program, and these forms of marketing software are usually termed ‘adware’. The difference between spyware and adware is knowledge and consent of the user. Because spyware is added without consent, and often can lead to a number of damaging effects to a computer, spyware removal is a popular subject for computer users today.
The first step in spyware removal is of course determining that you indeed have spyware installed on your computer. Chances are, you do. In a study conducted by America Online and the National Cyber-Security Alliance in 2004, it was estimated that 80% of computer users across the world have some form of spyware installed on their computer, and 90% of these users are not aware of it.
Some common signs that your computer maybe infected with spyware are ‘pop-up’ advertisements that occur frequently, and sometimes even when you are not on the web. These ads can be extremely annoying to be sure, but spyware can have even more sinister effects to your computer. For instance, it can considerably slow your computer down, add hard to remove toolbars to your browser, change your home page without your knowledge, and cause lock-ups or crashes, resulting in lost data.
The good news is there are a number of spyware removal programs available that will scan your computer to detect spyware elements. If it is determined that your computer is infected with spyware, some of these programs are able to remove the infection.
Many spyware removal programs are available free of charge, though they must be updated regularly. Some programs will allow you to scan your computer for free, but will then ask for payment in order to clean the detected spyware. Personally, I’m a little skeptical of these programs, and stick to the ones that are entirely free of cost. Some good examples include SpyBot, and AdAware.
These spyware removal programs are usually able to get most spyware off your computer. To increase your chances, it is best to run two or even three different programs. You may encounter occasional spyware programs that are especially malicious and will require more complicated measures to remove. Instructions on how to remove these more devious spyware programs are often available in technical forums across the internet, and most stores that offer computer repair are also able to clean spyware as well as viruses.