General information on what spyware is and what you can do to protect yourself from it
Mostly found in programs that implement a feature known as "adware," spyware applications are installed into your computer from certain programs which then reside within your computer system and collects data about you and the type of activities that you have conducted on the Internet. Acting as a server filled with this data, the author of the spyware program can then retrieve this data whenever you are connected to the Internet for their advertising campaign or other commercial uses. Some spyware applications even go beyond just retrieving your data by configuring your computer programs to run operations that you had no knowledge of. One of the most notorious software on the Internet that has been frequently labeled as spyware is a software known as the "eWallet" created by the Gator Corporation.
From a user's perspective, at first glance the eWallet appears to be a free piece of software that stores information such as your name and postal code so that whenever you encounter a site that requires you to fill in a form with those types of details, the program will automatically input this information for you. It may sound like a convenient piece of software to install and factor in that it is advertised as being free is enough to lure many people to download and install the program. What you may not know is that this program is also constantly working in the background to retrieve statistical data about you and your browsing habits such as what type of sites you visit and the keywords that input in search engines. They then use this data to display material such as targeted pop-up advertisements on your computer. Having a company monitoring your every move on the Internet and then using this information to try and promote products to you is enough to make most people worry about their privacy.
Now you may be asking how you can protect yourself from such programs. As a general rule on the Internet, always do your research and be weary of installing any kind of program that you are not fully aware of. For those who suspect that you may have installed these types of spyware programs on your computer and wish to get rid of it from your computer, in many cases just manually trying to uninstall the program will not completely delete the information that is still in your computer's registry. There is a popular software on the Internet called "Ad-aware" created by Lavasoft that can help you detect and delete known spyware from your computer. Their site is located at http://www.lavasoftusa.com/ and simply visit the Ad-aware section.
Remember, while the Internet can be a great place to increase your knowledge on various subjects and to communicate with people all across the world, always take into consideration about the type of information you are publishing about yourself.