Although the first recorded use of spyware was on October 16, 1995, as recently as 2005, studies showed a considerable 61 percent of surveyed users’ computers were infected with some form of spyware. Of those 61 percent, 92 reported they were unaware of its presence.
Characterized as a type of malware that can be installed on your computer, spyware gathers user information without their knowledge. With its existence generally hidden from the user, spyware programs can obtain different kinds of personal information ranging from browsing habits to banking information. In addition, spyware commonly installs additional software and changes computer settings resulting in slower connection speeds, re-routing of home pages and/or loss of Internet connection.
Even though spyware tends to be installed without the users’ knowledge, and seeing how most people will not install software knowing it will disturb their working environment and endanger their privacy, spyware deceives users by either accompanying desirable software (music sharing programs) or by tricking them into installing it (posing as security software). Unfortunately, spyware can also infect a system through holes in your Web browser.
More often than not, when a machine is infected, it has multiple infections. Infestation can interfere with many things ranging from unwanted CPU activity, disk usage and network traffic. Some spyware can even result in applications freezing, the computer crashing and failure to boot up. In cases where spyware is not evident, users assume the performance issues are a result of faulty hardware. Systems with an unusually high rate of infection may require a full re installation of all software for the machine to return to full functionality.