This is a guest post by Matt Delton.
The term “spyware” has been around almost as long as the Internet. At first, the word “spyware” was used to refer to little devicese like cameras and microphones that could be used to spy on computer users. Today, spyware is a type of software installed on a computer (usually inadvertently by the user) to spy on the computer user's activities and send information back to the interested parties who created the spyware.
Spyware can be programmed to send back various types of information about how you use your computer. It might send information to interested parties about how you surf the web and what web sites you tend to visit while you are surfing. It might send information to interested parties about your computer system details, or, it might send information about your passwords and login details to give criminals access to online banking accounts, for example.
Avoiding spyware is important. Even when spyware is on your computer gathering trivial pieces of information like email addresses for use in spam marketing campaigns, it is bogging down your computer, shortening the life of the machine and making it run more slowly.
If you value your privacy, it can be worthwhile to spend some time learning about spyware and how to avoid it. Often, spyware is embedded in free games that you can download from the Internet. Software applications that promise users greater productivity and speed on their computer also often includes spyware. The software applications work as promised, but, behind-the-scenes, the spyware is chugging away doing it's thing at the same time. Spyware can be hard to detect because of it's insidious nature. Being leary of free software programs that you can download online can help protect you from installing spyware in the first place.
If you're a free downloadable software junkie, then there may still be a way to protect yourself from getting spyware. Typically, the covert activities of the spyware is described in the end-user license agreements that you must “agree to” when you are installing the software. Simply reading the end-user license agreements will clue you in on whether the software is legitimate or not. Most people avoid reading the end-user license agreements because they're very dry and boring. If you don't feel like you can commit to reading the end-user license agreements, purchase software that will read the agreement for you and display a warning if it detects mention of keywords indicating that spyware may be installed with the software.