Spyware is programming that is secretly installed on personal computers when owners surf the Internet; arbitrarily download files, programs and other materials from the Internet; and click on e-mail attachments that are attached to spam and other unsolicited e-mail. Spyware is routinely attached to such programs as Kazaa, Morpheus, Gator, Net2Phone, and StopSign, among others.
Spyware collects information about the Web pages you visit on the Internet. Spyware can also monitor your keystrokes, scan your computer files, snoop your chat programs, read your cookies, change your default homepage, change your default Web browser, interfere with your ability to access the Internet, and report all of the information it gathers about you to the spyware's author.
Spyware can interfere with your computer's normal operation, causing system slowdown, illegal operation errors, browser crashes, and even the "Blue Screen of Death.
Information Technology and Services recommends that all students, faculty, and staff take the following counter-espionage steps to combat spyware:
- Antivirus software: Install it and keep it updated. (See Antivirus Software advice)
- Spyware removal software: Install and run spyware removal software on a regular basis. Further information about free spyware removal software is available on the Web at the links below.
- Ad-Aware: http://www.lavasoftusa.com/support/download/
- SpyBot Search and Destroy: http://www.safer-networking.org/
- Public database of spyware products and news: http://www.spychecker.com