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This week we will be focusing on Spyware.
Exactly What Is Spyware?
We wanted to go into a little more detail on this whole spyware thing because we talk about it so often. Ninety-nine percent of what goes wrong in an internet connected PC is caused by spyware, right? Wrong. Spyware gets a bad press. It certainly deserves it, but the term has become too generalized, and this can be frustrating for both technicians and end users alike.
Spyware often manifests itself in the following ways:
Popups appear when you're not even connected to the Internet.
Strange toolbars appear on your browser that you did not install.
Your homepage has changed and you cannot change it back.
You system crashes or takes forever to load.
So I have Spyware. Now what?
Just about everyone gets spyware on their system at some time or another. The question is, 'how do you get rid of it?' Depending on the severity of the infection, reformatting and a clean install of the operating system may be the only sure way to know it's gone.
We do this for several reasons, but the most important is that you know the spyware is gone and prevention can be used to keep the system clean.
If reformatting and reinstalling isnt a desired option, then check out some of the free spyware scanners such as adaware or spybot sd. Personally I use Counterspy which is an excellent scanner at a very competitive price.
Free Software etc
Although there are many bonefide distributors of software there are also many unscrupulous sites and programmers who attach viruses and or spyware to their 'free programs.'
If you consistently install software from the internet without checking it out first then it is only a matter of time before your system becomes infected with spyware and or viruses.
You may have already experienced something along these lines. You come across a free program that promises all sorts of benefits for you and its FREE! How can you resist? You click on the download button and if your lucky and have SP2 installed then you get the message asking you if you want to install the,' active x control,' that will allow the software download.
This is where the trouble can begin. Active x controls without getting too geeky can of course be good or bad and basically you are giving permission if you answer yes to allow this active x control to do whatever it wants to your system.
If you use P2P file sharing programs then the chances of your system becoming infected are substantially increased, in fact I would say it's inevitable.
The obvious answer to free downloads and P2P file sharing problems is not to use these programs or download software that we are not familiar with the source. Will we do this, I would doubt it. So what else can we do to prevent this from happening and our systems becoming infected?
This is going to be painful, I know. But keeping your system free of spyware takes a little effort coupled with some helpful tips.
Use a good firewall, anti-virus solution & spyware scanner. Never open email if you don't recognize the sender. Install McAfee's free site advisor & spoofstick to prevent phising scams.
McAfee's site advisor is an excellent way to be alerted of potentially dangerous sites. Its quick, it's free and it works. More and more sites are being submitted for testing every day. Just type, 'Site advisor,' into Googles search engine to find the download.
Spoof stick will alert you with just a quick glance to any spoof (fake)websites. It will also work when clicking on any links in an email etc. This should help you steer clear of banking scams, identity theft etc. Again Google it for the free download.
Make sure you have your system set to automatically receive updates & patches. Scan your system about once a week & remove any nasties that you may find. I also run Kaspersky's free online scanner once a month as an extra precaution.
If you want to take your protection a step further then have a separate hard drive installed in your system. Its quick, relatively cheap, offers extra protection and gives us more space to store our data etc.
Once installed then simply make sure that anything you download is stored on the extra hard drive, the one not containing your operating system.
Once you have it there then run right click your mouse and select scan with, 'the name of your virus scanner,' and or spyware scanner and scan the file you just downloaded. If the file comes up clean and you want to move the program to your system drive, the one containing the operating system then you are as sure as you can be that it doesnt contain any nasties thus virtually eliminating any threat to the drive containing your operating system.
Of course you should run your spyware & virus scanners on this extra drive whilst doing your weekly scans.
About the Author
Hugh Duddy owns a PC repair company in The Netherlands. Hugh moved from Scotland 7yrs ago to work for The United Nations & started his own company 3yrs ago. Hugh contributes to many online publications & his specialty is Internet Security. For how to videos etc. http://www.thedoc-experthelp.com