Adware vs Spyware: Understanding the Difference

Your computer faces many threats, but not all of them are the same. If you want to protect yourself and your data, you need to understand the fundamental differences between the various kinds of threats, including how each one may affect you.

The terms adware and spyware are often used interchangeably, and many computer owners think they are the same thing. But although these two types of unwanted software operate in similar ways, they are quite different.

What is Adware?

While adware comes into your computing life uninvited, it is the more benign of the group. As the name implies, adware is designed to render advertisements as you surf the web automatically. While it may be obtrusive and obnoxious, adware does not typically damage your computer or harm your files.

Adware, known as advertising supported software in the industry, consists of a software package that automatically serves ads for the businesses that have paid to have those ads displayed. In some cases, you may be interested in the advertised products or services. More often, those ubiquitous ads are simply annoying wastes of time.

What is Spyware?

While adware is relatively benign, spyware is an entirely different animal. Once again, the name indicates the purpose, but this time that use is far more obtrusive.

Spyware is software that spies on you as you surf the web, tracking your movements, determining what you do and where you go and reporting on your browsing habits. Unlike adware, which often comes bundled with legitimate software, spyware is much more of a threat.

Spyware is considered a threat primarily because its tracking behavior could potentially compromise the identity and personal information of the individual it is tracking. Unlike adware, which merely serves ads, spyware gathers information about the person using the computer. Worse yet, it does so without that person’s explicit permission or even their knowledge.

The same computer can harbor both adware and spyware, but it is the latter that is considered the biggest threat. When you run a scan for malware, the software you use should find any spyware on your computer and remove it. The software may also flag adware and let you know about its existence, but whether or not you delete it will depend on how troublesome you feel it is.

If you want to be extra sure that your computer is not harboring any adware or spyware, you can run specialised scans that look for these threats alone. There are some such programs, so it is important to research their reliability and read the user reviews. Many antivirus software companies make their own adware and spyware scanners, while others build this specialised protection into their mainstream products.

If you think you may be infected get in touch with us as we can check and carry out a Virus Removal if necessary. We strongly advise that you have sufficient antivirus in place. We recommend antivirus for Apple Mac and antivirus for PC.

Whether you use your computer for business or just for fun, your system is constantly under attack. Writers of adware, spyware and other potentially malicious programs are always looking for ways to gather information, sell products and intrude on your everyday web surfing. Knowing the difference between these common threats and how to protect against them is the best way to protect yourself, your computer and your personal information.

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