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This Help! section includes information and recommendations on eliminating and preventing Spyware.

 

Spyware / Adware / Malware

 

Facts     What to do     Recommendations    Details: Types of Spyware

 

Spyware? My computer has been running really slow and constantly locking-up on me, and someone mentioned spyware. What is spyware?

 

Some facts about Spyware:

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90% of Internet-connected computers are infected with spyware.

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Spyware programs can be easily installed on your computer without your knowledge.

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Spyware can result in identity theft, data corruption, personal profiling and more.

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Your computer can get spyware when you download files, view an unsolicited email, visit Web pages that activate a 'drive-by download' or via other means.

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Spyware can sneak into your computer and reveal your deepest secrets to hackers and spammers.

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Spyware can effect system performance, slow down Internet access, and uncover personal information.

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Spyware can disable your antivirus software and not allow automatic updates to work properly.

Spyware is any software that gathers and transmits information without one's knowledge. Spyware programs usually track information about the Web sites visited, browser and system information, and your computers IP address. While spyware programs are sometimes sinister, like a remote control program used by a hacker, software companies have been known to use spyware to gather data about customers. Spyware is often the surprise payload hidden in a temptingly "free" download.

Spyware also steals from you by exploiting your computer's memory resources and eating bandwidth as it sends information back over the Internet connection. Being that spyware is using memory and system resources, the applications running in the background can lead to a very slow computer, system crashes or general system instability.

Spyware exists as independent executable programs, are therefore has the ability to; monitor keystrokes, scan files on your hard drive, view other applications like chat programs or word processors, install other spyware programs, read cookies, disable your antivirus software, and change the default homepage on your web browser. Then the spyware program will continuously and secretly relay your information back to the spyware author who will either use it for advertising/marketing purposes or sell the information to another party.


Sound scary? It is!

 

Some effective ways to protect yourself:

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Run a reputable antivirus program and update it frequently.

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Install a firewall. Better yet, install a router and a personal firewall! This not only blocks incoming traffic, but will keep spyware programs from contacting the Internet without your permission.

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Don't download from "warez" sites - people who distribute pirated software, music, & movies which often distribute spyware and Trojans.

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Say "NO" when a box pops up on your screen asking you to click "Yes" or "OK" - unless of course your actually trying to install or download something intentionally. Better yet, don't even click "NO" but click the X in the upper-right hand corner of the pop-up box.

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Install some reputable anti-spyware programs such as Ad-Aware SE, Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4, Microsoft AntiSpyware (Beta), Spy Sweeper & Spyware Blaster 3.4 .

Fighting spyware tends to be in its infancy yet, and is not nearly refined as antivirus software. Running scans from multiple programs weekly, or at the first sign of trouble will help nip spyware in the bud.

BEWARE of un-reputable companies offering free anti-spyware programs. There are a number of companied that missrepresent their products and in fact, add spyware rather than remove it. There is a list of shady anti-spyware applications to avoid at Spyware Warrior. We have not confirmed any programs on this list, but the site does go into extension details about the problems with the programs.

If you believe your system is plagued with spyware, try a full antivirus scan and full scans from Spy Sweeper/Ad-Aware/Spybot scans. Check out the Links page for many additional websites for additional downloads and other online help. If that doesn't work, then contact your local professional for service. Some spyware is very elusive and can rename itself or protect itself from removal, or will reinstall itself after your system reboots. It can be infuriating, but by not fixing the problem we can guarantee it will only get worse.

Check out the Links page for related links.

 

Types of Spyware:
Adware: Unsolicited pop-up ads that appear whether you are connected to the Internet or not. This is the result of covertly installed software install on your system which will continue to slow down your computer.

Browser Plug-In Applications: Usually these are in the form of extra buttons or a toolbar added to your Internet browser (i.e. Internet Explorer). It then will have complete control and access to the browser and can spy, modify and redirect any task performed within your browser.

Browser Helper Objects (BHOs): This software is installed on your system through another program and tracks the ads that appear on your computer. They conflict with other running programs which causes performance lose and various faults and errors.

Dialers: This software will dial your computers modem (via the phone line) without the user's permission. The numbers are usually International and have been know to cause substantial phone bills if not caught promptly.

Hijackers: This type of covert software can reset browser settings, modify bookmarks, redirect search traffic, reroute information and address requests, and steal passwords.

Keystroke Loggers: This software records all keystrokes made by the user. The information can be hidden within your computer for later retrieval or can secretly email itself to the attacker through an Internet connection.

Remote Administration Tools: This is a Trojan type of software which allows remote control of your computer over the Internet. The attacker has full access to the victim's computer.

Remote Installers: This is software that is installed usually through an email disguised as a legitimate email. When it is opened, the spyware is installed.

 

Check out the Links page for related links.

 

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