Spyware, Malware, oh my…
Over the many, many years of using a Windows based PC’s, I and almost all Windows users have run across computer infections that involve what is known as “Spyware” or “Malware”, and various other malicous Trojans and Worms. None are beneficial, nor keep your data or computer secure or allow you to surf the web without some type of security compromise. All of them will give you a headache if not caught in time.
I am to understand over 80% of all Windows based computers are infected unbeknownst to the users, until they either stop working or come to a slow grinding halt. This may be a high estimate but not from my actual experience with assisting others with their Windows based PC’s.
Spyware is software that resides on a computer and sends your personal data to its creator. The data may include surfing habits, system details or, in its most dangerous form, passwords and login data for secure applications such as online banking. Many
spyware programs are more annoying than dangerous, serving up pop-up ads or gathering email addresses for use in spam campaigns. Even those programs, however, can cost you valuable time and computing resources.
Often, spyware comes along with a free software application, such as a game or a productivity program, such as connection boosters or free screensaver. Once it is installed onto your computer, the functional element of the software works exactly as promised, while the information gathering program sets up shop behind the scenes on your computer and begins feeding your personal data back to the bad guys.
To protect yourself from such nefarious software, install and maintain some type of Spyware prevention and removal application that you must keep up to date and run on a regular basis.
I have found over the years that these 3 FREE applications, not only run very well together but also do a very good job either blocking such spyware or removing the infection entirely. You should NEVER install more than one current Anti-Virus program but with Spyware and Malware, more can be better and these 3 are the best. My own past experience proves it.
Ad-Aware - http://www.lavasoft.com/
Spybot-Search & Destroy - http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html
Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware - http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php
Once you have reviewed the above sites, download and installed these 3 applications. You will need to keep up on the almost daily updates and RUN the applications on a regular basis, installing and not updating or not running them is a waste of your time and hard drive space. You must take the medicine if you want your PC get better!
As this is the remedy, what about prevention?
- When it comes to spyware, the best defense is a great offense. Practicing the below step to avoid getting spyware on your computer in the first place helps prevent you from becoming a victim.
- Keep Windows up-to-date by setting up automatic updates in the control panel. Microsoft issues critical updates at every second Tuesday of each month. Many of those are designed to eliminate or avoid specific security threats.
- Never open an email attachment if you are uncertain of its source.
- Install an anti-virus software package and keep it updated at all times. There are many of these available, some of which are free. The most popular brands include Norton, McAfee, and AVG by Grisoft.
- Don’t download shareware (or anything else for that matter) from unknown sources. Seek out reliable providers of free utilities, such as download.com.
- Avoid questionable web sites. If you visit a site that seems strange, there is a good chance you should not be there.
- Don’t click on any pop-up or ads for free anti-spyware software. These are almost always bogus, even if they carry the name and logo of a well-known company. Sadly, this is a very popular method used to distribute spyware and other malware.
- Install a firewall and, if you have a home network, use a separate router, rather than sharing the Internet connection through one of your computers. This puts one more barrier between you and the bad guys. Windows XP and Vista come with a firewall, so no extra cost here.
- If a virus alert appears on your screen as you visit a web site, do not click on it, even to close it. Instead, type control-alt-delete to launch the Task Manager and use the “End Task” command to close the window. Next, use your own anti-virus software to run a complete scan of the system.
All of this is by no means instructions on how to install and safeguard your computer from viruses, spyware, and malware, more to make you aware of what is out there, to either look into it more and make an informed decision, or seek professional assistance for the solution that best serves your needs.