Spyware is computer software that is installed stealthily on a personal computer to intercept or take partial control over the user’s interaction with the computer, without the user’s knowledge or consent. Unlike a computer virus, spyware does not directly spread in the manner of a worm. Generally, an infected system does not attempt to transmit the infection to other computers; the issue is contained to your local system.
Spyware normally interferes with networking software, which commonly causes difficulty connecting to the Internet. Spyware, along with other threats, has led some Windows users to move to other platforms such as Linux or Apple Macintosh, which are less attractive targets for malware. However these platforms are not full-proof so don’t fall into an out of sight trap. They will reach your system by exploiting security holes or are packaged with user-installed software, such as Limewire.
Spyware is often hidden alongside other programs, and you may unknowingly install spyware when you download a program from the Internet or install software from disks.
The scariest part of being attacked is the privacy implications, as spyware can also gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords and credit card numbers.
Not only can spyware programs collect various types of personal information, but they can also interfere with user control of the computer in other ways, such as installing additional software, redirecting Web browser activity, or diverting advertising revenue to a third party.
Microsoft has an entire Windows Update site devoted to automatically updating users’ systems with all the latest fixes and patches for a wide range of Microsoft software, including Windows, Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access), and Internet Explorer.
What happens is that these emails are part of phishing schemes. Phishing generally means that someone sends you fake or bogus emails with bad links in them. These links invite you to click on their bogus sites (i.e. not government sites at all) and submit some of your personal (confidential) information: maybe your complete name, social security number, etc. Some emails even have spyware attachments on them.
Identity thieves, or thieves who focus on identity theft issues, send out thousands of fake emails almost on a regular basis any more, saying they’re representing government entities. So heads up if you receive emails saying they’re from the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission, Internal Revenue Service or other government agency or department. Spyware is computer software that is installed stealthily on a personal computer to intercept or take partial control over the user’s interaction with the computer, without the user’s knowledge or consent.
These emails may be trying to trick you.
One government department alone, the Treasury Department, reported* receiving over 23,000 complaints about IRS-related phishing schemes since November 2005. Most involve hoax emails telling recipients that they have a pending tax refund and are under investigation.
Do not click on links inside emails from government agencies.
Government agencies rarely communicate via email, and if they do, it’s in response to something you initiated most often. They communicate via postal mail.
Windows posts updates regularly, especially security patches. Make sure you download these or at least check monthly for updates. Mark your Outlook or other calendar and check regularly. So arm yourself: your computer and email for identity theft protection. Better safe then sorry!
Most agencies are list on the web nowadays with contact information readily available. If you receive communications that you are unsure of, call the agency first to see if the emails are legitimate.
Do not click on or save attachments that come with government emails. Delete these files. Unfortunately, sometimes even the best security isn’t good enough. Computers are expensive, and it makes sense to protect your investment from anything that could harm it.