Spyware is a program that is used to gather information about a person or organization. This information may be targeted toward learning a computer user's internet habits such as what sites they visit but the collection of information is not necessarily limited to one area of information.

The spyware program may or may not be installed with the user's knowledge. Spyware is generally considered to collect information without the user's knowledge. Cookies may be used to help spyware track user activity. Spyware is legal so long as it is installed without hacking but the act of hacking is illegal in most places. Programs that perform spying activity but are installed and run legitimately are not technically considered spyware.

Spyware Installation Methods:

  1. It may have came with another program installed by a user.
  2. Installed through a hacker tool or by using a computer hack.
  3. It may be installed using a weakness or misconfiguration in the user's browser when they visit a website.

Spyware Damaging Characteristics:

  • Spyware Removal Prevention - Many times spyware programs are written to prevent their removal. Spyware removal must be carefully performed since improper removal due to the spyware program's design can damage the user's computer software and hinder or disable the computer operation. In some cases spyware removal may be very simple and in other cases it may be very difficult.
  • System Resources - Spyware requires processing power to run the program and will do damage by consuming the user's internet bandwidth in order to provide accumulated information to the agency collecting the information.

When spyware is Legitimate and not necessarily classified as spyware:

Spyware is only legitimate when the user is informed up front that information about the user will be collected. If the spyware is designed to prevent its removal or was installed using a computer hack, it is not legitimate.