Many people use the terms Spyware and Adware interchangeably. You should not! There are important differences between the two. True, both terms refer to the act of tracking your computer activity, such as how long you visited a particular Web site.
However, the key difference is the intent behind how and why a business collects your information. Adware is commonly associated with pop-up advertisements used by businesses trying to sell you something. However, Spyware, the more malicious of the two, is not trying to sell you, instead, it's trying to take something from you – your credit card and social security numbers and bank account information. Some Spyware collections information about you and, if placed in the wrong hands, could have been detrimental to your financial wellbeing and used to steal your identity. Adware is usually something you can see. Whereas Spyware often can not be seen, in fact, businesses behind Spyware do not want you to know they're lurking. Therefore, you may have a Spyware infection and not know it. One malicious Spyware is keylogging, a tool that hangs about in the background, logging your keystrokes, including account numbers and passwords you type on your keyboard, and then sends the information to the originating source.
Future of Spyware
Spyware will only become more invasive with no concern for your privacy, regardless of what you want or think. Worse, no one piece of software will protect you from the above. Why? One belief is that there are more more research dollars being spent on developing Spyware than combating it, since the information derived from the former is more lucrative.
There are two methods to protect yourself, both are equally important.
1. Manage your computer usage behavior. If you download most anything for free – movies, software, music, etc., then you can anticipate being exposed to highly aggressive forms of Spyware.
2. Utilize anti-spyware software programs and a hardware firewall. Both help to fend off Spyware. Lavasoft's Ad-Aware and Microsoft's Anti-Spyware programs are reputable.