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Spyware - FAQ
This document provides Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Spyware. Answers are contained within this document.
What is it?
"Spyware" (sometimes also referred to as "Adware" or "Malware") is a category of computer software that is installed on a computer system for the purpose of gathering information about the user and relaying it to advertisers or other interested parties. Spyware most commonly makes its way onto a computer system during the process of installing other software programs. Most existing spyware is designed for computers running the Microsoft Windows family of operating systems.
Why does it exist?
Distributing spyware is a way for software companies to make money from their product without charging end-users for it. The software distributors receive fees from the spyware companies to bundle spyware applications along with their own programs.
What's wrong with it?
Unfortunately, spyware has many negative attributes. In addition to the privacy ramifications (personal information is often transmitted unknowingly to other parties), spyware components can also have a serious impact on the security, stability and performance of a computer system. Often, during installation of programs with bundled spyware, it is possible to choose whether or not the "spyware" components are installed -- but occasionally (and increasingly) this choice is concealed from the user, or is just not available at all.
What can I do about it?
Fortunately software exists to help protect consumers from spyware and to repair the damage.
There is antivirus software recommended by UW-Madison for faculty, staff, and students that includes spyware detection and remediation capabilities. The following page contains recommendations on what software to enable for your computer: https://it.wisc.edu/services/antivirus-software/.
AdAware is also a Windows utility that removes spyware. See Ad-Aware Self-Help for more information on downloading and installing AdAware.