What’s spyware & what does it do to a PC?

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Spyware explained simply - Antivirus made easy

Spyware is a host of malicious little programmes that secretly infect the computers of unwary users and either modify or delete personal information, broadcast your private data or try to take control of parts of your PC.

Cookies are essential to a smooth internet experience, since they store things like passwords and shopping cart items, and are not normally harmful. Tracking cookies, however, record personal information and share it with unrelated sites, and, if it falls into the wrong hands, will increase your spam. There are tools, such as the Google toolbar, and other third party programmes, which will block most tracking cookies.

Browser hijackers change your homepage to another site, most often a shopping portal, porn site or affiliate advertiser. You may have excessive pop-ups, even offline, find new sites added to your favourites or shortcuts, or be the recipient of an unwanted toolbar. You may also find yourself redirected to unexpected websites while surfing.

Spyware piggy-backs on free downloads, and keyloggers, which record all the information you type into your PC and send it to their creator, are particularly undesirable. There are, however, numerous free programmes that will eradicate spyware and immunise your PC, and these are recommended.