There are many kinds of PC security software that prevents people from an outside source being able to track your web patterns. Spyware presents a major threat to your privacy and your ability to freely surf the web. Anti-spyware software prevents these spyware programs, which you inadvertently download, from being able to install themselves in your system.
Unlike viruses, which are contained within program downloads, spyware files piggyback onto a variety of sources. Many websites install "cookies," which are small files that track your usage of the website. These cookies are generally not malicious but do invade your privacy. They can be considered a form of spyware. Other spyware files are more dangerous, designed to track your overall internet behavior or even record keystrokes for purposes of stealing your passwords and/or gaining access to files on your system. This type of spyware is often attached to free software downloads or clickable popup ads.
In some cases, the line between spyware and adware becomes fuzzy and undistinguishable. Adware monitors your shopping patterns to create popup advertising that is customized to your needs. Strictly speaking, adware is not spyware since the focus is on creating advertising rather than tracking your movements. Then again, since the adware invades your privacy by noting your habits, it could be considered a non-malicious form of spyware similar to website cookies.
Unlike viruses, spyware files generally cause no noticeable damage to your system. Your computer's performance may be somewhat slowed or otherwise affected, but you will not notice a loss of data or system crash. This means that without appropriate anti-spyware software, spyware files may linger undetected for weeks, months or even years. Even if you happen to detect spyware on your own, uninstalling the files can be tricky. The piggyback nature of spyware makes the malicious file difficult to remove without uninstalling the wanted file to which it is attached.
Since spyware is difficult for the user to detect and remove, anti-spyware software is required. This PC security software will scan your system regularly for spyware files and remove them. Most anti-spyware software can be set to remove adware as well.
Free anti-spyware software is available from many sources across the internet. Be sure that you trust the source prior to downloading the file, however, or you could end up with more spyware piggybacked to the utility that is supposed to remove spyware! This is an uncommon occurrence, however, and many free anti-spyware programs perform comparably to purchased products.
Whether you choose a free or purchased anti-spyware program, there a few things you should look for to determine whether the program will meet your needs. The most important features are functionality and effectiveness. You want a program that will consistently monitor your system as an antivirus program does, blocking the majority of spyware from ever entering your system. The program should also give you the option of allowing or blocking suspected files, since no program can be 100% accurate in its determination of what is actually a spyware file.
The ability to customize the program is important, as is the ability to schedule full system scans at your own convenience. The program should be easy to install and use, and should offer regular updates. Finally, there should be a user's manual or website available in case you have questions about the program.
If you feel like you're computer is loaded with spyware, then go ahead and spend the money to get a program that will clean it. Going forward you can then protect yourself by using a system of computer firewalls and anti-spyware software to prevent the installation of new spyware. Don't put it off. The security of your private information is at stake.