Stopping Spyware with Windows Defender

Spyware is a term that has come to describe a variety of undesirable software programs, whose bad behavior ranges from annoying you with pop-up ads to surreptitiously sending your private information to other people. Indications of common spyware infections include the following:

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• Unexpected new toolbars, favorites, and links in your web browser

• Changes to your browser's home page and default search provider

• Sudden occurrence of computer crashes or slow performance

Note that spyware doesn't necessarily "spy" on you. A common characteristic of anything dubbed "spyware" is that it does its deeds—malicious or otherwise—without your informed consent. (Spyware typically gets installed by deceitfully asking permission to do something other than what it actually does or, in some cases, by exploiting browser vulnerabilities . In this regard, most spyware is fundamentally different from earlier types of malware; it typically relies on social engineering to install instead of exploiting vulnerabilities .)

That's where Windows Defender comes in . For known malicious programs that have no redeeming value to you, it intercedes without disturbing you and then quarantines or removes the offending program. Other "spyware" programs, along with programs that perform activities that are suspiciously similar to known spyware tactics, fall into a gray area; when Windows Defender encounters one of these programs knocking at your door, it suggests a solution and asks what you want to do .

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