How to protect your computer online against viruses and spyware

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Spyware

How many spyware items could be infecting your computer
and how to get rid of them?

Perhaps this happened to you, as it did to me. I just had, by mistake, a plug-in called Intelligent Explorer attach to my browser - see my other article on this topic. What a nightmare! It's another subject, but this brings home a point - the spyware problem, an annoying and time consuming exercise in futility.

Growing spyware problem

Spyware or adware items are continually infecting computers in an increasing number. Most computers have no protection from them. Most frightening is the frequency of them, where such programs get downloaded unnoticed with other "bona fide" programs or files.

From the InfosecWriters web site, "According to a 2004 survey by America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance, 91% of users questioned were familiar with the term spyware. Only 53% believed their computers were infected, but a scan found that 80% of their PCs had some type of spyware installed on them." It goes on to say, "...The average number of spyware components per computer was 93 with one computer having well over a thousand."

What is Spyware?

Does spyware infect your computer?
Computer spyware is often hidden in adware, designed to spy on your online surfing habits

Butte College (www.bctv.butte.edu/support/spyware.html)
offers this definition:

"The term ‘spyware’ is broadly defined as any program that gets into your computer without permission and hides in the background while it makes unwanted changes to your user experience.

Spyware is generally not designed to damage your computer. The damage it does is more a by-product of its main mission, which is to serve you targeted advertisements or make your browser display certain sites or search results.

At present, most spyware targets only the Windows operating system (Internet Explorer)."

To be fair, spyware can be harmless, for example tracking cookies don’t do much. While such things infringe on your privacy, they don't really harm anything. Others, however, are extremely dangerous.

The list of top 6 anti spyware tools

No anti spyware program seems to do everything, but there are a lot of goods solutions out there that can help. Here is a list of some of the top Spyware tools to look at:

1) Try Ad-Aware 6.0 Professional from LavaSoft (there is also a free version with less functionality, but also very useful and effective)

2) Spybot Search & Destroy from PepiMK Software

3) Xoftspy form Pareto Logic

4) Pest Patrol (now part of Computer Associates by acquisition)

5) Spyware Guard from Javacool Software is a free program

6) McAfee Anti-Spyware program

The difference between spyware and viruses

One thing is for certain: you do need to take spyware seriously. For some reason, too many people out there think anti-virus solutions are the end-all solution. They are not. Because they don't deal with spyware problem and often can't detect it.

While computer virus can and often does attack computer system openly (therefore being immediately and more noticeable), spyware on the other hand tend to work quietly in the background, and often goes unnoticed until it's done its damage. Any of the above mentioned ani spyware programs are very effective in uncovering spyware on your computer.

And, when all else fails?

Finally, as drastic as it seems, if your computer has been infected with a large number of spyware programs, the only solution you may have is backing up your data, and performing a complete reinstall of the operating system.

Computer Spyware Articles:

  • Adware - When you use your computer for online work, reasearch and entertainment, you will end up with adware being installed ony our computer without your consent. These could be harmless tracking programs, or nasty monitors of your online habits. 
  • Botnets - This is probably one of the works threats to your computer system, difficult to locate and even harder to delete when infection occurs. Botnets are often used by hackers to infiltrate computers and use them as a network to propagate viruses and spam, to infect other computers. 
  • Spyware - Often used in advertising, these spying programs infest possibly some 80% of computers, mostly unknown to their owners. Often a dozen or more of spyware programs can be found on any computer, tracking user's online habits. 
  • CounterSpy - Being generally a nuissance, spyware is a booming industry, using agressive advertising and spying tactics on you. One of the best spyware removal programs is CounterSpy, by Sunbelt Software. 
  • Spyware Programs - You already have learned that many spware programs could be infesting your computer right now. There are 3 basic ways in which you get these programs: freeware and shareware, deceptive downloads, and security holes. 
  • Intelligent Explorer - Although a rare threat today, masquerading as Internet Explorer toolbar, this deceptive software program will generate a lot of unwanted popups and downloads without your permission. 
  • Spyware Remover Programs - Spyware programs track your internet usage, collect personal data, and spawn popup advertisements. This can cause your computer to slow down, or worse. Windows Spyware Remover, Ad-Aware, and Spybot can all help you delete spyware from your computer.