PC Security Threats: Virus & Spyware, know the difference!

There are many different types of malware threats on the internet, waiting and ready to get downloaded to your Windows PC,  to compromise and breach your system’s security. Spyware and Virus are most common among them. They are both forms of unwanted or malicious software, sometimes called “malware”.

What’s the difference between spyware and virus?

  • Spyware collects information about you without appropriate notice and consent.
  • A computer virus spreads software, usually malicious in nature, from computer to computer.

Spyware can get installed on your computer in a number of ways. One way is through a virus. Another way is for it to be secretly downloaded and installed with other software you’ve chosen to install. Spyware is a general term used to describe software that performs certain behaviors, generally without appropriately obtaining your consent first, such as:

  • Advertising
  • Collecting personal information
  • Changing the configuration of your computer

Spyware is often associated with software that displays advertisements (called adware) or software that tracks personal or sensitive information. That does not mean all software that provides ads or tracks your online activities is bad. For example, you might sign up for a free music service, but you “pay” for the service by agreeing to receive targeted ads. If you understand the terms and agree to them, you may have decided that it is a fair tradeoff. You might also agree to let the company track your online activities to determine which ads to show you.

Spyware  make changes to your computer that can be annoying and can cause your computer slow down or crash. These programs can change your Web browser’s home page or search page, or add additional components to your browser you don’t need or want. They also make it very difficult for you to change your settings back to the way you had them.

Security Suggestion: The key in all cases is whether or not you or someone who uses your computer must understand what the software will do and have agreed to install the software on your computer. A common trick is to covertly install the software during the installation of other software you want such as a music or video file sharing program. Whenever you install something on your computer, make sure you carefully read all disclosures, including the license agreement and privacy statement. Sometimes the inclusion of unwanted software in a given software installation is documented, but it might appear at the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.

In short, spyware is a specific type of unwanted software that secretly collects your information.

A Virus is a specific way software can be secretly distributed, often by e-mail or instant messaging. Computer viruses are small software programs that are designed to spread from one computer to another and to interfere with computer operation. A virus might corrupt or delete data on your computer, use your e-mail program to spread itself to other computers, or even erase everything on your hard disk. Computer viruses are often spread by attachments in e-mail messages or instant messaging messages. That is why it is essential that you never open e-mail attachments unless you know who it’s from and you are expecting it.

Viruses can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files. Computer viruses also spread through downloads on the Internet. They can be hidden in illicit software or other files or programs you might download.

Security Suggestion: To help avoid computer viruses, it’s essential that you keep your computer current with the latest updates and antivirus tools, stay informed about recent threats, run your computer as a standard user (not as administrator), and that you follow basic common-sense rules when you surf the Internet, download files, and open attachments.

Both spyware and viruses can cause damage to your computer or cause you to lose important data. If you have any Security related issues and want to know more about current threats and their prevention visit the Windows Security section of Windows Club forum.

To help protect against viruses, spyware, and other malware I prefer to use Microsoft Security Essentials, a free download from Microsoft and the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, if you feel the need for an additional  post-infection removal tool.

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Nitin Agarwal is an MVP alumni and a Pro Blogger. He was awarded as Most Valuable Professional for 3 times by Microsoft in Windows Expert – Consumer category. He is immensely inspired by Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and APJ Abdul Kalam.