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(Not So) Free Downloads

The fun, cool program you download for free and install on your work or school computer often comes with a price: spyware, slower computer performance, even increased spam.

The Internet abounds with creative folks offering their nifty computer toys and tools for free. Not surprisingly, many of these strangers don't actually have your best interests in mind. Some of these applications are simply resource hogs that will slow down your computer. Others follow you as you surf the web and report your behavior (sometimes right down to your keystrokes) to the developer's server. Armed with this information, you can be targeted for advertising and spam, as well as have your passwords and credit card numbers stolen. While the worst threats still target Windows computers, the Mac is not immune to threats.

The best way to protect your computer from unknown threats is simply to not download or install any free applications. If you feel a need to do so, it is crucial that you read the "End User License Agreement" before installing. It will tell you what other programs may be bundled with the application you want, what information it collects, and should include a privacy policy.

Learn more about adware and spyware »

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