How Spyware Links to Identity Theft

Thanks to millions of actual cases and widespread coverage from the media, many of us now understand the serious threat of identity theft.  These facts have kept us on guard, implementing various strategies to protect personal information.  Despite all of these efforts, crafty imposters continue to find ways to gain access to personal data and commit identity theft.  One tool that makes this crime even easier to carry out are malicious programs known as spyware.  

Often confused with a computer virus, spyware has quickly become the tool of choice for online hackers looking to commit identity theft.  This type of program has the ability to compromise several devices with internet capability, such as a computer, cell phone, or an MP3 player.  Spyware is hard to detect as it is often bundled with freeware, such as screen savers and video games frequently offered on the web.  It can also be distributed via email, infected web links, or audio and video downloads and streaming.  A knowledgeable programmer can use spyware to exploit security vulnerabilities in a web browser by downloading software without a user being aware. 

The Dangers of Spyware

There are many harmful consequences that can result from spyware.  One effect is the possible spread of other computer infections.  Spyware may also terribly effect the performance of an operating system and provoke crashes. A hacker can use this type of program to modify system settings, including security configurations, leaving an innocent user with limit control over their computer.  The most serious consequence of spyware is identity theft, as the program can also be designed to collect every bit of vital information from a computer.    

There are actually a few legitimate reasons to use programs such as spyware.  This may include a company who monitors employees or a parent monitoring their child's activity on the internet.  Unfortunately, many more online predators are using spyware for malicious crimes such as identity theft. 

Protecting Yourself Against Spyware

All web surfers must realize that they are at the potential risk of identity theft - spyware is the factor that makes it all possible.  While spyware can cause a considerable amount of damage to your computer and identity, it can be prevented and deleted from your system.  

Here are a few tips to keep your identity safe from spyware:

Remain cautious of unsolicited email - Sometimes, spam consists of much more than annoying advertisements.  These messages may also consist of links that redirect you to a site that will download spyware onto your computer.

Never download an attachment from an unsolicited email - Many identity thieves will send spyware in the form of email attachments.  Upon opening the file, the infection is then installed onto your computer, making way for identity theft. 

Use a firewall - Firewall is now a program that should be viewed as a necessity to all internet users.  This application will help prevent intruders from penetrating your system and installing spyware.

Use Anti-virus software - The biggest defense against spyware is a quality anti-virus program.  This will allow you to run a scan of the hard drive in search of any infections that pose a threat to your system and identity. 

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Spyware has many ways of getting onto your computer, such as:

When you download programs - particularly freeware, or peer-to-peer sharing programs.

More covertly, spyware can install itself just by you visiting certain sites, by prompting you to download an application to see the site properly.

ActiveX controls. These pesky spyware makers will prompt you to install themselves while using your Internet browser