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Often called the Trojan horse of technology, spyware can enter your system via free software that you install on your computer.
Once in your system, not only does spyware make a detailed check of your browser history, it can even install other programs without your knowledge, and send (or receive) cookies to other spyware programs, literally inviting them into your computer (even if you have cookies disabled). It's like leaving a back door open for hackers to enter your computer and get your personal data.
Spyware secretly gathers information and profile-browsing habits, allowing advertisers to build up information about what you do and where you go on the Web. Advertisers then use this information and target their ads accordingly. Not only can this be annoying, but the spyware can actually degrade your computer's performance.
To top it off, these programs are not easy to delete from your system by normal methods and often leave components behind to continue to monitor your behavior and reinstall themselves.
Some symptoms caused by spyware include:
* Poor system performance (especially while browsing the Internet)
* Your computer is frequently unresponsive
* It takes longer to open the Windows desktop
* Your Internet browser closes unexpectedly
* The homepage of your browser changes and cannot be reset
* Pop-up ads appear when your browser isn't open
* Additional toolbars are added to your browser
* Web pages are automatically added to your list of favorites
* Desktop icons are automatically added to your desktop
You can manually remove most adware by uninstalling the software that it came with or removing the adware using Windows Add/Remove Programs. Aggressive spyware can be extremely difficult to remove.