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What is Spyware and Malware? and Risk of Data Theft

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Many people are pulling their hair out because their computers doesn't seem to work the way they want it to. For some reason, their PCs seem to have a life of their own. Chances are, their computer systems have already been infected with spyware or malware, without realizing it. So what exactly is spyware and malware, and why is it a hair pulling experience for the user?

Spyware is a type of application that is installed into the computer system without the user's knowledge. It is meant to operate secretly, because the primary function of spyware is to obtain information from your computer without your permission. That is tantamount to stealing. For example, you could have spyware in your computer sending private and confidential information about your internet surfing activities, your online banking passwords, credit card numbers. Usually, they don't impede the use of a computer, but can result in your computer slowing down if heavily infected. But when passwords, email accounts and other information get stolen, including your personal data that is when the hair pulling starts.

Malware, similar to spyware, is also usually installed in the computer system without the user's permission. How can this happen? Malware can embed itself in an innocent looking application (e.g. a game), and the unsuspecting user installs the game into the computer. All the while, the user thinks that it is the game that is installed, when in reality, it is the game AND the malware that is installed. So what can malware do to the computer?

The term malware, actually comes from two words - malicious, and software. In other words, malware is short for malicious software. And that tells you something about the behavior of malware. You can expect it to behave maliciously. Behaving maliciously means that it is going to be actively causing damage to your computer system. Unlike spyware, which just sits there and grab data unobtrusively, malware actually create havoc in your computer. For example, it may erase important registry files, or attempts to format your harddisk, etc. The damage is sometimes irreparable, and it can amount of a lot of money if important data is lost.

So how to prevent spyware and malware from inflicting damage on the system?

There are many ways to do this. As the end user, it's always wise to install some kind of firewall for protection. Windows already come with its own firewall, but it has limited features. You can try something more feature rich like McAfee or Norton. Usually, such security software also comes with resident shield and anti virus software. Resident shield helps to prevent malware or spyware from being installed in the first place. If you attempt to install a suspicious piece of software, the shield will warn you. But in the event that a piece of malware still managed to get installed in the computer, then anti virus is needed to scan and clean the computer.

Ultimately, it comes down to the end user. If you choose to ignore warnings from the security software, you can still find yourself with a spyware or malware infested PC. So keep yourself updated with the latest computer security news, and be a smart computer user.

Article Source: - What is Spyware and Malware? and Risk of Data Theft

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