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What Is Trojan Spyware?

Windows users are encouraged to regularly scan their computers and laptops for spyware.
Trojan spyware may appear to be a piece of harmless software, but it includes malicious code that tracks how the computer is used.
Article Details
  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Trojan spyware, which is privacy invasive software named for the popular Greek fable about the Trojan horse, gains entrance to computer systems while disguised as something harmless. After this malware installs itself, the program accomplishes any number of malicious activities, depending on the author’s desired intent, but spyware primarily tracks information about the computer's users. Although generally hidden and unnoticed by users, Trojan spyware is thought to weaken a computer’s defenses, increasing the likelihood of additional invasive programs. Spyware lacks the replicating properties of viruses and worms, but a Trojan can be transferred from one system to another by attaching to a downloadable object or another infection. Adequate computer security must include some type of anti-spyware program.

People can unknowingly download Trojan spyware in many ways. Individuals might acquire the software from an email joke passed from one friend to another or by downloading a popular image. Occasionally, a popup display appears on a website, issuing a warning that the computer contracted a serious virus. The ad suggests performing an immediate scan and entices users to download a product that it claims will protect the user's computer. More times than not, however, Trojan spyware accompanies the download.

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Operating secretly in the background during computer use, Trojan spyware might monitor the user's web surfing behavior. This detailed information concerning online activity often transfers to another computer for advertising and marketing purposes. Some spyware redirects users' web browsers or takes individuals to specific sites. When used for identity theft, Trojan spyware lurks behind the scene as a means of collecting various types of valuable personal information. Thieves frequently wait for infested computers to reveal names, account numbers, credit card numbers, identification numbers, files and passwords.

Besides revealing sensitive information, Trojan spyware might open the door for additional malware. Each additional infection begins affecting system performance. Computers might freeze during operation, or the spyware can cause a slow computer. Much like the symptoms of a virus, a system might fail to boot or experience crashing. Trojan spyware combined with other malware can disarm firewalls or render anti-virus software ineffective.

Individuals might resort to a total computer cleanup by reinstalling the operating system and other necessary programs. Incorporating spyware protection as part of online security prevents many maladies. Some anti-virus programs provide spyware protection, but many others do not. Efficient spyware software not only protects information,it also ensures optimal computer function. Spyware blocker and spyware removal programs search operating system files, registries and installed software for signs of possible threats.

Available as free downloads or through purchase, anti-spyware programs are equipped with a variety of features. Some of them run in real time, alerting users to possible threats while surfing the web. Simple programs require a manually selected scan, and more advanced software allows users the option of scheduling regular scans. Upon scan completion, the programs generally provide a list of suspected threats, along with the choice of keeping or deleting potentially harmful files.

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