Spyware is software installed on your computer without your consent to monitor or control your computer use. Clues that spyware is on a computer may include a barrage of pop-ups, a browser that takes you to sites you don't want, unexpected toolbars or icons on your computer screen, keys that don't work, random error messages, and sluggish performance when opening programs or saving files. Spyware is known to change computer settings, resulting in slow connection speeds, different home pages, and/or loss of Internet or functionality of other programs.
In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all.
To lower your risk of spyware infections:
The clues that spyware is on a computer include:
- Update your operating system and Web browser software, and set your browser security high enough to detect unauthorized downloads.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly.
- Download free software only from sites you know and trust. Enticing free software downloads frequently bundle other software, including spyware.
- Don't click on links inside pop-ups.
- Don't click on links in spam or pop-ups that claim to offer anti-spyware software; you may unintentionally be installing spyware.
- Barrage of pop-ups
- Hijacked browser — that is, a browser that takes you to sites other than those you type into the address box
- A sudden or repeated change in your computer's Internet home page
- New and unexpected toolbars
- New and unexpected icons on the system tray at the bottom of your computer screen or on your desktop
- Keys that don't work (for example, the "Tab" key that might not work when you try to move to the next field in a Web form)
- Random error messages
- Sluggish or downright slow performance when opening programs or saving files