Spyware is a type of malware that is installed on a computer without the knowledge of the owner in order to collect the owner’s private information. Spyware is often hidden from the user in order to gather information about internet interaction, keystrokes (also known as keylogging), passwords, and other valuable data. Spyware can also negatively affect a computer’s performance by installing additional software, redirecting web browser searches, changing computer settings, reducing connection speeds, changing the homepage or even completely disrupting network connection ability. Spyware can also be used as a type of adware, where the software delivers unsolicited pop-up ads in addition to tracking user behavior. Typically, spyware is installed when a user installs a piece of free software that they actually wanted. When the desired software is installed, the spyware will piggyback on the installation and start collecting data from the user’s activities. The user can also be tricked into installing the spyware through a Trojan horse as well as it pretending to be a free piece of security software. Spyware authors have been known to pay shareware developers to bundle their spyware with the legitimate software as well as simply repackaging freeware and bundling it with their own spyware. Drive-by downloading is another method used to install spyware on an unsuspecting user’s computer.
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