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Spyware for Beginners: The Basics

Updated on March 31, 2015

A Few Basic Facts

According to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (2008), spyware is defined as “one type of malicious software (malware) that collects information from a computing system without your consent”. When spyware is running, almost no data, personal or financial, is out of reach of a malicious programmer. Typically, spyware is installed when other wanted software is downloaded from the internet. It is never safe to download anything from an untrusted or unfamiliar source or website.

The legalities of spyware are limited and not always clear. According to the Federal Communications Law Journal (n.d.), spyware is illegal if the victim can prove loss of at least $5000, physical injury, a threat to public safety or health, damage to a government computer system, or alteration of medical records, AND proof of unauthorized access AND intent. State laws vary.

As stated before, computer users should never download anything from an untrusted or unfamiliar site. Other precautions to take against spyware are reading all disclosures, privacy policies, and license agreement, keeping system and software up to date, and using anti-spyware software. A comparison of reviews done by the editors of PC Mag (2014), and the reviews reported by PC Advisor (2104),show that of the top ten anti-spyware software, both lists agreed that both Bullguard and Symantec Norton provide excellent anti-spyware protection. Those were the only two anti-spyware software within the top ten of both lists.


PC Advisor (2014). Anti-spyware software reviews. Retrieved from

PC Mag (2014). Anti-virus: Latest reviews. Retrieved from

United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (2008). Federal Communications Law journal. Retrieved from


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