Spyware FAQs

What is Spyware?

Spyware is a broad term associated with an assortment of software on your computer that can do numerous things including collecting personal information, creating pop up advertisements, and tracking internet usage. Spyware commonly installs itself onto your computer without permission and typically has an unfavorable effect on performance.

What are the symptoms?
Slow PC performance

Even a small amount of spyware on a system can slow down a PC because it operates in the background, draining hard drive resources.

More frequent pop-up ads even when not surfing the web

Adware tracking cookies trigger the most benign form of pop-up ads. Cookies that exist on your PC serve up pop-up ads related to the site you are visiting, your personal information or online activities. The more cookies you have on your PC, the more pop-ups will appear. Occasionally, even the "close" or "cancel" buttons imply yes. A different pop-up, which copies a Windows Messenger Service window, is also a strategy to download spyware onto your PC.

Mysterious homepage/bookmark changes

Hijacker spyware resets your homepage as a result, every time you launch Internet you land on that site. Until you remove it, this type of spyware application will not let you change your default homepage to a more desirable address.

Unusually slow Internet access

Spyware blocks bandwidth since it is importing data (pop-up ads) while sending out data (user activity, screenshots, bank account numbers, keystroke logs).

New or different search toolbars

Spyware riddled applications frequently install a new search toolbar on a PC with the objective of hijacking searches for search terms. Subject to the validity of the toolbar, searches could end up on a pay per click site, and some of those sites load additional spyware onto your PC.

Malfunctioning Anti-spyware/Anti-virus software or is turned off

As a survival maneuver, spyware occasionally targets the software designed to locate and eliminate it.

How did I get Spyware?

Free Downloads and Sharing!

A number of individuals are partial to downloading free stuff and sharing files, however free programs and sharing software can include spyware. They may guarantee to speed up your internet connection, manage downloads, or else add extra features to your browser (such as a search box) then the pop-ups appear.


You can get spyware just by visiting a website, which secretly installs a script that HIJACKS your browser. As a result, rather than going to your homepage (or any website you type in) you get pop-ups or advertisements that may include graphic pictures, or cause your browser or computer to crash or hang.

Opening e-mail messages or attachments sent from an unknown individual

You can get spyware from e-mail, especially if you have clicked a link inside an e-mail (usually spam). You have no control over what the link does, or what it installs. This is a very common way of getting spyware and viruses.

You installed it!

Countless spyware programs are inadvertently installed when you said YES or NO to a pop-up that asked you if you want to install something!

Installing add-on toolbars and unsafe software

A number of sites will prompt you to install programs that are completely safe however; some will prompt you to install toolbars, spyware, and adware. A number of identifiable names, for instance Macromedia, Microsoft or Apple are usually trustworthy. Nevertheless if you do not recognize the name, it is wiser to be safe than sorry and click cancel. If you really need it, write down the name of the program and company name, and do a search for it to see if it comes up as a spyware or adware problem.

Bad Websites

You should avoid certain areas when surfing online. The most common distributors of spyware and adware are sites that offer adult content, free music downloads, free casino-type games, time and date manager, or toolbar buddies. Download anything from these types of sites, you can almost guarantee you will be downloading spyware/adware that will profit the site you downloaded from.

Recognized Spyware Applications

The installation of Spyware is typically concealed; the following applications are known for their spyware that should not be downloaded:

  • Bonzi Buddy
  • Gator / GAIN
  • Weather Bug
  • Webshots Desktop
  • Hotbar

How Can I avoid Spyware?

Exercise safe surfing

Keep away from websites that offer pirated (bootleg) software, free casino-type games or else adult material as these sites are well known for distributing spyware.

Safeguard your browser

Set your browser's security settings high enough (I.E. on Medium) to safeguard from automatic installation of unsolicited programs. Furthermore, make certain you only download programs from trustworthy sites before installing.

Be cautious of cookies

Cookies could perhaps add ease throughout your browsing sessions, in spite of this they can trace your actions while online and communicate that data back to another party lacking your knowledge. This outbound communication is triggered through cookies as well as slowing down your internet connection.

Delete Spam

Delete messages from unfamiliar senders along with email containing an attachment, even if the sender is known. Beware when looking at email in the preview pane as you have the capability of starting spyware program downloads. Therefore it is suggested that you turn off the preview pane option.

Think twice of Peer to Peer (P2P) File Sharing Services

P2P network clients regularly load spyware onto your PC when you sign up for their service (Kazaa, Morpheus etc), these files being swapped and shared (photos, music, videos or games) could potentially contain spyware.

Maintain current Anti Spyware software

Effective anti-spyware software offers clients with regular updates to combat the latest spyware variations. Run scheduled or manual scans, and make certain you choose any proactive monitoring options the software may have. Also, reinforce your protection with anti-virus in addition to a firewall.

Anti spyware protection

Tools you can download and buy on the internet which scan and remove Spyware/Ad-Aware.

Read Licensing Agreements

Licensing agreements that accompany software downloads sometimes warn the user that a spyware program will be installed along with the requested software, but the licensing agreements may not always be read completely because the notice of a spyware installation is often couched in obtuse, hard-to-read legal disclaimers.


Drive-by download

Programs are downloaded without the user's knowledge or consent. This is most often accomplished when the user clicks to close or eliminate a random advertisement or other dialogue box.


Encryption is the scrambling of data so it becomes difficult to unscramble and interpret.

Home Page/browser Hijacker

A program that can change settings in your Internet browser; most often including your search page to redirect all searches to a specified pay-per-search site, and your default home page to the company page - often a pornography site.

"Remove me"

Preferences on spam that is frequently bogus. Specifically, if you respond to request removal, you could be subjecting yourself to more spam, given that by responding, the sender knows that your email account is active.


Software distributed for evaluation without cost, although requires payment to the author for full rights.


Unsolicited commercial email.


Is a type of system monitor that has the ability to record all keystrokes on your computer. As a result, a keylogger can record and log your e-mail messages, chat room conversations, instant messages, and any other typed material. They have the ability to run in the background, hiding their presence.

This page developed and maintained by the Information Technology Department. Send comments and suggestions to helpdesk@ccri.edu .

Last Updated: 12/5/17