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What Is Spyware?

Spyware is a technology that assists in gathering information about a person or organization with or without their knowledge. On the Internet, spyware is software that collects and transmits user behavior and information with or without the user's knowledge. Some legitimate software include a "permission to install" clause in their software license agreement. It's important to know what you are installing and read all installation documents before installing because uninstalling doe not always remove Spyware.

For the most part, Adware, Malware, and Foistware have inter-related behavior and features and are commonly referred to as Spyware.

Why Is Spyware a Problem?

Loss of Personal Information

Spyware potentially provides malicious users with your most private personal information. For example, a typical online banking visit could yield a malicious user with your banking information. Visit your credit card company's website and you provide them with your credit card account information. This is possible because some Spyware will redirect your web form submission to another site, collect the data, and redirect another form submission to the correct website.

Computer Performance Issues

Spyware is known to cause computers to become sluggish and cause programs to crash.

Browser Issues

Spyware is known to alter your default home page and "search engine hijacking" (redirect your search engine). Other times, it will install an unnecessary web browser toolbar. The worst symptom is pop-up and pop-under windows that randomly or constantly appear. Some pop-ups appear looking like a Windows alert dialog box (warning message).

What Types of Spyware Exist?


Adware is invasive that it can at times annoy the user.  It is often installed unknowingly and generally results in pop-up and/or pop-under ads.  It can also embed links into web pages the user visits that are not part of the original code for the website. .


Malware is the not too distant cousin of Adware in that it also is installed unknowningly by the user.  Frequently, it is branded as a "free tool", "web accelerator", and in some cases as a "spyware removal tool."  Unfortunately, this type of spyware has a malicious intent of harvesting and collecting information you submit to other website and like a virus can sometimes include key stroke logging features.


Is a term often applied to bundled software.  This is software that is bundled with a "particular" product that must be installed or the product will not work; or is required by the software license agreement.

Other Resources and "Pest" control

You are encouraged to visit the following resources. Also included below are a list of more popular solution providers available for the Windows and Mac operating systems. Unfortunately, we cannot support or take responsibility for the use of these programs. These links will take you outside of the domain to information or resources that may help you remove any spyware and viruses that may be installed on your computer. These links do not represent endorsement by the University of Washington or its affiliates.

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