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Updated weekly. Last update: February 6 2017
What is Spyware?

Any product that employs a user's Internet connection in the background without their knowledge, and gathers/transmits info on the user or their behavior. Many spyware products will collect referrer info (information from your web browser which reveals what URL you linked from), your IP address (a number that is used by computers on the network to identify your computer), system information (such as time of visit, type of browser used, the operating system and platform, and CPU speed.) Spyware products sometimes are wrapped in other commercial products, and are introduced to machines when those commercial products are installed. See also Adware.


What is Adware?

It is software that brings ads to your computer. Such ads may or may not be targeted, but are "injected" and/or popup, and are not displayed within the form of an ad-sponsored application. Some Adware may hijack the ads of other companies, replacing them with its own. Usually they change the IE homepage and search engine.


What is a worm?

Worms are programs that replicate themselves from system to system without the use of a host file. This is in contrast to viruses, which requires the spreading of an infected host file. Although worms generally exist inside of other files, often Word or Excel documents, there is a difference between how worms and viruses use the host file. Usually the worm will release a document that already has the "worm" macro inside the document. The entire document will travel from computer to computer, so the entire document should be considered the worm.


What is a Trojan horse?

Trojan Horses are impostors--files that claim to be something desirable but, in fact, are malicious. A very important distinction between Trojan horse programs and true viruses is that they do not replicate themselves. Trojans contain malicious code that when triggered cause loss, or even theft, of data. For a Trojan horse to spread, you must, invite these programs onto your computers--for example, by opening an email attachment or downloading and running a file from the Internet.


What is a virus?

A computer virus is a program written to alter the way a computer operates, without the permission or knowledge of the user. A virus must meet two criteria:

  1. It must execute itself. It will often place its own code in the path of execution of another program.
  2. It must replicate itself. For example, it may replace other executable files with a copy of the virus infected file. Viruses can infect desktop computers and network servers alike.
Some viruses are programmed to damage the computer by damaging programs, deleting files, or reformatting the hard disk. Others are not designed to do any damage, but simply to replicate themselves and make their presence known by presenting text, video, and audio messages. Even these benign viruses can create problems for the computer user. They typically take up computer memory used by legitimate programs. As a result, they often cause erratic behavior and can result in system crashes. In addition, many viruses are bug-ridden, and these bugs may lead to system crashes and data loss.


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