Preventing Spyware Tips
Spyware sucks. They are small programs made by advertising and market research companies that want to know what you are up to online so they can sell you stuff. You may have heard these programs referred to as “malware” because they are often, well…malicious. If they did not cause so much difficulty for PC users, they would probably not be looked down upon with so much scorn. However, spyware can slow down your web surfing significantly and make that blazing fast PC you bought last month feel like the one you were using ten years ago with dial up.
Unfortunately, anyone running windows without anti-virus and anti-spyware is likely to have picked up at least one form or another of spyware. It may be that you see a cute little website that lets you interact with others or a notification that says, “You’re a Winner!” You click on it and before you know it, your every move online is being tracked and recorded, interfering with your download speed and invading your privacy. You won’t feel like such a winner after that. You may find that the software has installed nasty little bits of code that make it reinstall itself every time you try to remove it. It may also kill the anti-spyware programs so that it can continue running.
Install Protective Software
Spyware is easy to get and can be hard to get rid of. Obviously, you are better off never getting it in the first place. Most Internet Service Providers now provide antispyware along with free anti-virus software to prevent such programs from being executed on your system without your knowledge. Unfortunately, many people never take the time to install it once they sign up. If this is you, install that soft ware immediately. Run a complete scan on your system. You may be surprised what you find!
PCs that have been badly affected may need to be restored to factory settings. You will need to find the factory restore CD that came with your computer and back up the files you want to keep on a removable disk or CD.
You should understand that no program can protect you 100% from malicious software. For this reason, you should not depend solely on the free software that comes with your Internet service. At the very least, keep windows updated and add on a free virus scan program.
The good news is that spyware is on the decline. Gone are the days when you have to pay through the nose to remove unwanted programs from your computer. If you do not have a free program with your Internet service, you will probably need pay for a subscription service. Most spyware tools will cost you around $30 or so. It is well worth it if you spend a lot of time on questionable sites. We’ll discuss these sites later in the article. For now, let’s look at some of the options available to you.
Spybot Search & Destroy
This free download has been shown useful to many users but may not be a complete solution to those who surf at more questionable sites. If you are a squeaky-clean surfer, this program should work well for you.
Microsoft has an anti-malware program for free that works about as well as Spybot. It does not catch everything, but it is a useful tool for detecting and removing malicious programs and it is very easy to use.
Malware Bytes Super Anti-Spyware
Personally tested by this reviewer, Super Anti-Spyware is worth the $30 for the professional version. The customer service is exceptional. If the program fails to remove all spyware, they will inspect your system, update their program based on the new virus found and then you can run it again to clean your system. There is also a free version available but it is unlikely the great customer service is included for free.
Webroot Spy Sweeper
It is interesting that this program gets such poor reviews by users. Advanced PC users will find it cumbersome, but the average user will enjoy its user-friendly interface. Three years of this anti-spyware program will cost about $50. A similar program can be purchased for $30 upfront and $20 per year, called PC Tools Spyware Doctor.
Now that you know which programs can help you remove unwanted spyware, next you need to protect yourself from getting infected again. This means some safe surfing practices. Essentially, safe-surfing means staying away from certain websites, software and pop-ups.
Websites to Avoid
Pornography sites are rife with spyware and malware. There is nothing wrong with getting your jollies now and again, but get your pornography from a video instead. In the long run, it will be much cheaper.
If you participate in P2P file sharing sites, only use trusted programs. Make sure you check reviews and forums in several places before downloading any file sharing program on your PC. Otherwise, you may be accepting some unwanted extra programs on your computer.
Toolbars are another purveyor of spyware that you will want to avoid. The big names are generally okay, such as Google and Ask. Whatever you do, stay away from any search toolbars that are not in the top five most used sites. Unfamiliar “search” toolbars and “download accelerators” are actually just there to monitor your search and see what you are downloading.
Pop-ups should always be avoided, even from trusted sites. They simply have no business being there. Pop-ups are the Internet equivalent of a telemarketer phone call during dinner. Be especially careful of any popup that says it has detected spyware or viruses on your computer. These pop-ups carry especially nasty little programs that will not be easy to remove. Even if you try to end-task the window, it will start downloading on your system. Run a scan of your computer immediately after if you run into such a window.
Finally, be sure to set Windows to update automatically. This way you will always have the latest malware fixes updated on your PC, reducing the chance of an attack on your computer. By using reliable anti-spyware software and keeping your PC up-to-date, your PC will continue to give you blazing fast speed and hours of enjoyment.