'Spyware' is the generic term for computer code that is installed on a computer – typically without the user's knowledge – in order to send information about that user back to a third party.
Spyware is not always related to scams or spamming. The most harmless type of spyware simply assists websites to track the visiting patterns of a user.
Malicious software, including 'key-logging trojan horses', can collect sensitive user information such as banking details, and send it back to people who use it to carry out fraud. This all happens without the victim's knowledge.
Consumers and businesses can protect themselves against malicious software by:
- regularly updating anti-virus software and security patches
- installing personal firewall software
- using long, unusual and random passwords
- treating all email attachments with caution
- not clicking on links in suspect emails or visiting suspicious websites.
Anti-virus and personal firewall software is available from Internet Service Providers and computer shops. Detailed information about purchasing, installing and using this software is available on the Internet Industry Association web site at www.security.iia.net.au.