Member Security and Fraud Prevention
Preventing and Detecting Spyware
What is spyware?
The term spyware refers to technologies that collect information about a user without his or her knowledge and reports that information to a third party. Certain forms of spyware can intercept sensitive and confidential information including passwords, credit card numbers and other identifying data.
How does it get installed?
While some companies bundle spyware with applications, other companies trick users into installing spyware, typically by clicking on a pop-up window disguised to look like an error message. Still other forms of spyware are designed so that you neither have to install an application nor click a button but rather just visit an infected web page. Spyware can also be spread through e-mail in a similar manner. A user doesn’t always have to read an infected message to have it infect their system. In some cases, just having the message displayed through your e-mail program’s preview pane is enough to cause the malicious script to execute.
What are the risks associated with spyware?
- Compromising confidentiality by allowing attackers to eavesdrop and intercept sensitive communications, such as customer IDs and passwords.
- Potentially allowing unauthorized access to user accounts.
- Increasing vulnerability to other Internet-based attacks, such as phishing and pharming.
- Due to the uncertainty that spyware may have been installed, there are many risks associated in using public computers such as those in hotels, libraries, or Internet cafes. It is not recommended that public computers be used to connect to online banking sites, billpay services, or any other personal online accounts.
How can I protect my computer from spyware?
- Keep your computer updated with the latest security updates and patches.
- Install a firewall.
- Install anti-virus software and update it regularly.
- Install a spam filter.
- Don’t surf questionable web sites.
- When pop-up windows ask you to install something, read the instructions carefully.
- When installing a new program, take a minute to skim any agreements (long, legal text you must agree to) and keep an eye out for words like partners, sponsors, third party, advertising and anything that sounds as though it may be related to tracking. Download only from trusted sites that test programs before offering them to the public.