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Spyware is software that runs on your personal computer to monitor your activity without your consent. Like its cloak and dagger namesake, it can sneak onto your computer without informing you, collect potentially sensitive information, and report what it finds back to a location on the Internet.

Spyware may only be as intrusive as someone noting your interests, for example the web sites you visit or the kinds of products you buy on the Internet. Other, much more dangerous versions, can capture the passwords you use for account access, snoop into your email, or look through the files on your disk drive. Poorly written spyware may interfere with the use of your personal computer or even cause it to crash.

Spyware generally comes along with other software that you download from sites on the Internet. Sometimes there is a small notice that is buried in the legal agreement you are asked to accept to use the downloaded software; often there is not, and the spyware is part of the downloaded program or a separate additional program that installs with the downloaded program.

Spyware can store its tracking information in the Windows Registry, in the small, encoded files that browsers use to preserve information between web pages called cookies, or in their own private storage files.

The surest way to avoid spyware is to never download and install anything from the Internet. More practically, you should be wary of installing software from a site that is not well known and purchase a special program to eliminate spyware.

Spyware protection programs operate in one of two ways; on demand, they can look through the files on your computer and identify those that are spyware, or they can run all the time checking that everything coming to your computer from the Internet is free of spyware. In either form, the spyware protection software looks for patterns in the binary files that match patterns in its list of known spyware.

In order for your protection against spyware to remain effective, you must update the list of patterns regularly from the vendor of the spyware eliminator

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