Spyware has become a real problem over the past few years and can wreak havoc on your computer. 

These unauthorized programs often run in the background of your computer taking up your computers resources and causing your computer to run slower.

So what is it anyway? 

Have you ever gone to a website and registered for a prize and suddenly found there are new buttons on your Internet Explorer toolbars?  This is an example of spyware. 

Spyware by definition is any program that installs itself, without knowledge or authorization from the user, with the intention of delivering unsolicited advertising or collecting personal information and sending it off to a parent company.  It is also known as Adware or Sneakware.

The presence of spyware is often hidden from the user and can be difficult to detect.  The most innocent programs simply serve advertisements, whereas others can collect various types of personal information, such as Internet surfing habits and websites that you visit.  In most cases, spyware is not considered to be illegal and generally notice of such functions is contained somewhere in the software’s licenses agreement.  As a result, incautious surfers can often unknowingly wind up with software that monitors their behavior, soaking up their computing and network resources, and in extreme cases even damage their computers.  Spyware is known to change computer settings, resulting in slow connection speeds, different home pages, and/or loss of Internet functionality of other programs.

As the threat of spyware has increased, a number of techniques have emerged to counteract it.  These include a number of removal programs available that identify and eliminate unwanted, unauthorized programs.  There are also several personal security programs available that include firewalls and spam blockers which reduce the chance of getting it on your system.