Beware Spyware

How do you keep spyware from tracking your habits or hijacking your computer?

One-third of Internet users have been spyware afflicted and this figure is on the rise.

What is spyware?
It’s a broad term for deceptive software that installs itself on a computer via the internet. Once it lurks, it allows an outsider to harvest your personal information, which can be used for many purposes. Unsolicited ads or adware is spyware in its most benign form. Others are more malicious, such as stealing passwords or credit-card information. Having a number of unauthorised programs running on your PC at once makes it sluggish, unstable, and, ultimately, more likely to crash.

How do you know if your computer has been infiltrated with spyware?
Unlike viruses, which are often invisible, spyware exhibits a host of signs that take away your ability to control the computer. Hijacked home pages, redirected Web searches, and a flood of pop-up ads are common complaints.

How does spyware creep on board?
Simply clicking on a banner ad can install spyware. Worms, which are self-propagating viruses, can also carry spyware. They search for machines that don’t have up-to-date security patches and install the nasty software. Spyware is also spread by e-mail.
Sometimes spyware is secretly bundled with free software you download from the Internet. Sites that offer music-sharing, videos, weather data, games, and screen savers often are paid to distribute adware. When you install the software, you might see a pop-up window asking you to agree to certain conditions. Avoid clicking ‘I agree’ without reading the fine print. You could be authorising the installation of data-collection and ad-serving software that can muck up your PC.

How do you get rid of spyware?
To eliminate it, you must track down every file and completely erase it. That can be tough since spyware hides inside your computer’s operating system, making it difficult to find. PC Pitstop provides a scan-and-removal service. For extra protection, employ specialty anti-spyware software. Use a well-known program that scans for a regularly updated list of privacy threats.

How do you protect your computer in the future?
Protection is an ongoing process since spyware makers are constantly creating new threats. First, install a personal firewall and an anti-virus program. Next, set the computer’s operating system for daily security updates and your browser to a medium or high-security level. Windows users should also ensure that the latest Service Pack from Microsoft is installed. And finally, practice safe surfing – download only trustworthy software, read licensing agreements, avoid banner ads, and delete spam. In other words, just say no!

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Written by Ben Waters

Over 20 years helping build small businesses that work. Investor/Adventurer. 15,000+ clients @pcpitstop. 7x award winners.

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