Most people have antivirus protection, and know that viruses are a major problem on the internet. But there are more problems out there it can really pay to be aware of.
One major problem is spyware and adware. These programs change the way your computer works and may present a danger to your online security.
Spyware is perhaps the more malicious of the two. It is intended to “spy” on your activities on your computer. This can include keystroke logging, password theft and so on. Adware is generally intended to push products on you, and may create popups to an annoying level, add links to products on pages you are browsing, and may change the settings of your firewall in order to allow itself to accomplish these things, leaving you vulnerable to other problems.
There are several free tools to help you with these problems. A new, yet promising tool comes from Microsoft. Obviously, this one is limited to Windows users. It’s still in beta, but you can download it free by looking for it at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/search.aspx?displaylang=en. Please note that this being in beta means that a commercial (read paid) version may be the only option in the future, and that the beta is going on through July 2005. I do not know what will happen to the price at that time.
However, with the tremendous range of spyware out there, I do not recommend sticking with only one solution. Good news is that the other suggestions are free as well, although paid options may be available. First is Spybot Search & Destroy, second is AdAware. Both can be downloaded free from Download.com. Panda also offers a free online scanner at http://www.pandasoftware.com/activescan/com/activescan_principal.htm. One final option is to buy PC-Cillin from Trend Micro for your antivirus protection if you need that, as it includes anti-spyware protection as well.
You do not need to run all of these. However, I would recommend having at least two of them, as no one spyware scanner ever seems to catch them all. Most you will have to run yourself, as they generally do not run scans on their own. I recommend making sure your system gets a weekly scan for spyware, just as it does for viruses.
Not everything these programs find will actually be spyware. Most list harmless cookies from certain websites. Cookies do not steal your information, they are for tracking you on a given site, but it also won’t hurt anything if you allow your computer to delete them. When you next visit the site they come from it may not know that you have been there before.
The tricky part comes when a program is too stubborn to be removed by one of these programs. I ran into this recently on my in-law’s computer, and had to research the problem by typing the program’s name into Google, and then following the removal instructions, which included going into the registry. Only do this if you must, as the registry is a great place for completely ruining your system if you remove the wrong things. For those who are wondering, the troublemaker came from eBates. It reset their firewall, which left them vulnerable in other ways. This is why you do not want spyware or adware on your computer.
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If you aren't protecting your computer adequately, spyware and viruses can do all kinds of nasty things to your poor, innocent computer. Protect yourself.
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