Spyware and Viruses Explained

Everybody knows about, or has at least heard about what a virus is,
but do you really understand what they are, or how they spread?

What about pop-ups, trojan-horse programs, and spyware? Do you know the difference between a virus and a worm? On this page you can learn these things, learn how to prevent them, and even how to cure them!

The Virus:

A virus is simply a program that someone creates (usually a geek that has crossed over to the dark-side) that has the ability to spread to other computers. A virus usually (but not always) is destructive in some way. For example, a virus may search an infected computer for email addresses, email itself to all those addresses, then on some predetermined day, erase the entire computer!
The people that received the email that was automatically sent may open that email, infect their computer, and repeat the process. Although a virus is able to spread on it's own, it needs some sort of human interaction to infect a computer. Usually this means someone has to 'run' (double-click) the virus program. Virus writers usually use some kind of social-engineering to trick people into double-clicking their virus programs. This is why it is important to never open an email attachment that you were not expecting - EVEN if it appears to be from someone you know.

The Worm:

The worm is similar to the virus except for one detail. The worm requires no human help or intervention to spread itself! Worms rely on security 'holes' in Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Internet Explorer, or other systems/programs that allow them to automatically spread themselves over the internet. A security hole is simply an error or oversight in a program that when manipulated in just the right way, can be made to take control of the computer. Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Internet Explorer seem to have an abundance of this type of hole - however Microsoft usually calls them 'features'.

The Trojan Horse:

A trojan-horse is program that can do damage like a Virus or a Worm, but it does not have the ability to spread to other computers. Instead, the Trojan is disguised as something that it isn't - such as a fun game, sexy picture-file, etc. The user thinks he or she is getting something for free, when in reality they are getting much more than they imagined.


Spyware is software that is installed on your computer without your knowledge, remains hidden, and is difficult to remove. The purpose of spy-ware is usually to gather information about your web-surfing habits, your email addresses, or other personal information, and then transmit the information to it's "mother-ship" to be sold for marketing purposes.
Although spyware usually does not intentionally cause damage to your PC, it often slows it down or cause it to crash unexplainably. If you are using Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Internet Explorer, and your are an average user, and if you have not taken steps to prevent it, I can virtually guarantee that you have spyware on your PC right now!

The Pop-Up and it's cousin, the Pop-Under:

Popups and Pop-unders are advertising windows that appear out of nowhere on your screen (a pop up). Or appear below your open windows, so that when you close your programs you see the remaining 'pop-under' advertisement.
We have two types of these irritants. The innocent and the not-so-innocent.
The innocent popup (or popunder) appears when going to a website as a means for them to advertise something that you probably don't want. Most web-browser programs have built-in pop up blockers that can prevent this type of popup.
The Not-so-Innocent Pop Up is actually a form of spy-ware (see above). The purpose of this spyware is to generate advertisements that are always on your PC - no matter what you do, even when you aren't on the internet! This type of popup (or pop-under) usually advertises websites for pornography or gambling. If you've ever had this type of pop-up spyware on your PC you know how irritating it can be!

See our preventing viruses and spyware page to learn to prevent a virus or spyware.

If you think you already have a virus or spyware see our page on symptoms of a virus or spyware.



I was just wondering if I have two different types of virus software on my computer- will they "fight" each other? It seems like ever since I had both of them that my computer is just super slow.

I have had some issues in the past with Norton Anti-virus.I have switched to Trend Micro Antivirus, and since then have had no issues with speed.Now with having 2 softwares on yours, Im not a pro, but I would think one good system would be enough.There might be a tendency for both to work against each other instead of "together".You might want to wait to get some professional opinion!

I'm not happy with Norton either, at the moment and it's time for me to renew or get something different, so I'm looking.

It's possible my issues with Norton are my own fault, but still, I want to try something else.

Glad to see these posts, because I can't put this off anymore. Thanks.



If I was standing on a fish, I'd slip and fall......

If you are looking for a change you should try Kapersky Anti Virus , most of the AV programs I have used in the past have done a decent job but they eat up alot of system resources. They also have a tendency to call an unknown program a virus if it is written for an unknown device ,I have LCD's on my computer case the software is called a virus by Norton,McAfee,and Black Ice.

Not a good idea to have two anti-virus programs running. Not only are you running slower but ,eventually you will have worse problems with your PC.

I use AVG anti-virus software. It works pretty well, haven't had in issues with it. Norton sucks and I'm not a fan of McAfee, either.

Its probably not you, well, maybe some parts...lol. Seriously, I know some people who love Norton but I have never had a good experience with it. It didn't catch any viruses and it slowed my computer down. I got AVG which caught trojan horses, worms, coupled that with spy/ad removal and my system runs a lot better.

I will check that one out too. And lol, yes, some of it was me....I'm sure of it...and never went back to see what I did wrong...as in, everytime Norton starts up, it turns off my firewall settings and the only way I could get it to NOT do it was to turn it off in Norton. So, before I ever turn on my network I change the firewall settings back to "On" after Norton starts up, because I want that on, not off. So, that's where I think it's something I did in the beginning.

Another thing is a trojan I had, it was a new york something or other, and Norton would not get rid of it, it would send me to their site, with the long long explanation of what to do to get rid of it and that upset me, because I wanted my anti virus software to get rid of it for me, that's why I paid the money. So, yeah, laziness on my part.

I do run the spy/ad removals everyday and that helps. I'll be checking out AVG also. Thanks.



If I was standing on a fish, I'd slip and fall......

LynnH, since I have put in Trend Micro Antivirus I have had no problems,also as my spyware software I have Webroot Spy Sweeper. It updates automatic almost each day, and a new version comes out seems like at least every other month.(Free Upgrades) So they are staying on top of things. With the both of them I have had zero issues with my system. Couldnt say that about Norten!

I use Webroot also, and the other is.... Ad-Aware SE Personal. What one doesn't catch, the other does.


If I was standing on a fish, I'd slip and fall......


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