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Got Spyware? Tips for detection, removal and prevention

Spyware, also known as adware or malware, is getting to be more and more of a problem to internet users. Spyware is usually a program or ... that is ... onto your pc, often without your

Spyware, also known as adware or malware, is getting to be more and more of a problem to internet users. Spyware is usually a program or application that is installed onto your pc, often without your knowledge or permission. It may display ads, monitor your Web surfing patterns, steal your passwords or become responsible for a whole range of bad stuff.

Where does spyware come from/What does it do?

These programs/applications can come from Web sites that download music or offer free software, or even from certain popup ads if you click anywhere inside the ad instead of hitting the X button to get rid of it.

Cookies are almost inevitable (most websites use them, and some won`t even work without them), and rarely a problem as they are very easy to clean up or even not accept, but the threat posed by key loggers, diallers and Trojans is much greater.

A key logger can record anything you type, including your passwords, e-mail messages,and credit card numbers, and even your online chats. Diallers will secretly hang up your Internet connection and redial premium services that can run up your long-distance bill. Trojans can embed programs which will open "backdoors" into your computer to allow hackers to steal data or make your pc unusable.

These types of spyware can prove very costly to people unaware of them.

How do you know if your pc is infected with spyware?

Well, for definite, if you`ve never checked before, you can bet your bottom dollar that you WILL have some spyware on your computer.

Here are some common traits:

1. Changed IE favourites.
2. Homepage changes without you changing it.
3. Popup ads popping up even when you`re offline.
4. New desktop icons appear for programs you did not knowingly install.
5. Some trojans will cause changes to the icons of your normal programs.
6. Prolonged System start-up after a reboot (takes a long time to load user settings).
7. You have to refresh a webpage multiple times before you can see the content.
8. Your pc may seem uncommonly slow or sluggish.
9. A program may not operate correctly. Some examples of this are Windows Media Player will not work. Notepad will not work, Task Manager, MSConfig or Regedit may close immediately after opening.
10. Unexplained loss of internet access (worst case scenario).

To eliminate spyware you should keep it from being installed on your computer in the first place. You could always just never install anything and never visit websites, but then you might as well throw away your internet connection altogether, huh? A better option might be to turn OFF the install on demand option in windows. This can be done by following these steps:

1. Open a new browser window.
2. Click on tools.
3. Click on internet options.
4. Click on advanced.
5. Scroll down through the list of advanced options and UNCHECK "Enable install on demand".
6. Click OK.

You can also make sure you can still download things that you WANT to download by following these steps:

1. Open a new browser window.
2. Click on tools.
3. Click on internet options.
4. Click on security
5. Click on custom
6. Scroll down until you find "Installation of desktop items" and set to "prompt"
7. Click OK

Remember, If your Internet security controls aren't properly set, just visiting a Web site or clicking on a Web ad can install an application.
Please note that if any of your programs are set to auto-update, you will need the install on demand option enabled.

How do you get rid of spyware?

Before running spyware removal tools, clean up your pc a little by hand first, that way the scan won`t take as long.

1. Open a browser window.
2. Click on tools.
3. click on internet options.
4. Choose delete cookies --> ok
5. Choose delete files --> delete all offline content --> ok

The 2 most commonly recommended spyware removers are Spybot Search & Destroy, available here: www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html and Ad-Aware SE Personal, which is available here: www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware

Both of these are free, and they don`t pressure you into paying for a full version, although spybot also immunizes your computer from known spyware without purchasing a "paid version", unlike adaware.

A great forum for getting answers about spyware and other related problems can be found here: http://forums.spywareinfo.com/index.php?b=1

Another really good place to find help with computer problems is http://forums.techguy.org

HijackThis is a general homepage hijackers detector and remover.It does not target specific programs/URLs, just the methods used by hijackers to force you onto their sites. As a result, false positives are imminent and unless you are sure what you're doing, you should always consult with knowledgable folks before deleting anything. The above-mentioned forums are good places to ask for help with this. You can get HijackThis for free here www.spychecker.com/program/hijackthis.html

Make it a part of your regular maintainence routine to scan your system for spyware, and remember that NO spyware blockers will be fully effective unless you keep them up to date, so check for updates often.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Anna-Marie Stewart has been involved with internet marketing since 1999. She has always tried to help people "make a go of it" online, by sharing her own experiences with as many people as possible. She now publishes "Not Just Another Ezine" a FREE weekly newsletter at http://annamarketing.com - dedicated to helping newbie and semi-pro internet marketers avoid the pitfalls BEFORE getting burnt.



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