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Spyware - Is It All Bad?

Spyware is getting a lot of bad press. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I love the idea of spyware but most of it is not as bad as people make it out to be. Before I go on I guess I should give a brief, if incomplete definition of what spyware is. Spyware is a program or group of programs that monitor your computer and report back to the company that installed the spyware, all of your Internet activities such as search engine searches, purchases, or just simply sites that you visit.
Now the legitimate companies use this spyware as marketing tools to find out people's Internet viewing habits and quite honestly there's nothing wrong with that if used legally. Sure, some people may feel that their privacy is being invaded and might object to this and if that's the case they can always uninstall the spyware. Of course that's not as easy as it sounds. But I'll get into that later.
The real problem is the companies that use this spyware to steal your credit card and other private information for the purpose of charging items, using your account, and who knows what other illegal activities. Credit card theft is rampant and easier to do than most people would think. The illegal spyware programs are responsible for many of these thefts.
The even bigger problem than what is done with this spyware is even detecting that the spyware is on your computer to begin with. I'll give you an example of how you can innocently end up with spyware on your PC.
I was looking up some song lyrics one day and in order to view this particular song lyric the web site said that I had to download a special viewer but assured me that it would in no way harm my system. Now, I have Norton Security on my PC so if a program tries to attack me I am warned. Well, sure enough as soon as I tried to install this online viewer I was bombarded with attacks from the Internet. They wouldn't stop no matter what I did. Norton kept warning me but couldn't stop it unless I specifically pointed out each file I wanted access denied for. Finally I just let the installation complete. To make a long story short the viewer also installed spyware, that Norton reported to me, was sending info back to a site somewhere in Asia. I knew this wasn't good. So I stopped the program from transmitting and immediately got a spyware removal program to get rid of this monster. It took me 4 hours that night to clean up my PC.
Spyware removal programs are just that. They scan your PC for anything they recognize as spyware and remove it if they can. Some spyware can only be removed through the uninstall programs that comes with the spyware. Funny thing is, when you try to uninstall these programs, you get all these messages saying that the software REALLY isn't dangerous and you will lose all the benefits of the program, such as making your surfing experience faster. Trust me, the only thing these programs do is slow up your computer because they are constantly transmitting data.
Unlike viruses, security programs don't stop the spyware in it's tracks. You have to manually tell the system which files to disallow access to. This can be a real pain in the neck. So how DO you avoid getting hit with spyware? I wish there was an easy answer to this question. Security programs help but the best way to avoid it is to ONLY go to sites that you know you can trust. I'll never go look up song lyrics again where I have to install a viewer to see them.
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