Spyware refers to malicious programs that infect computers with the sole aim of relaying your private information to some other party, usually, back to the same people who deploy these programs. Spyware collects information without the knowledge or consent of the user, and can be very difficult to detect.
Spyware may log your activities on the internet, such as sites visited, and may record search terms and download history. The recorded information is then sent to a server. Some spyware are designed to snoop on your hard drive, gather private information such as documents and files, and collect email addresses and phone numbers. The most dangerous variants are able to record your browser history with login names and passwords for online bank accounts and credit card information.