With the increase in spyware infections online, the common question you hear is, “how do I protect my computer from spyware and adware?” Many are so desperate that they will do anything just to find and kill spyware from their computers.
Having experienced some infection sometime ago and knowing the trouble I went through searching online for information on “how to protect my computer from spyware and adware problems” and finally finding a way round this problem I’ve put this article together to help others who are experiencing this problem.
But first, what really is Spyware?
When I was faced with the problem the first thing I did, before thinking of seeking a way to find and kill the spyware or even asking, “how do I protect my computer from spyware and adware”, was to seek and understand what spyware and adware really are. And this is what I found out:
Adware: Software that is installed into your computer without proper notification or permission and alters your browser and/or security settings, with the aim of displaying advertising without actually monitoring the user.
Spyware: Any program that gets into your computer without permission and hides in the background while it makes unwanted changes to your user experience with the aim of monitoring your computer activities surreptitiously and transmits that information over the internet.
Besides, I learnt that Spyware is generally not designed to damage your computer. The damage it does is more a by-product of its main mission, which is to serve you targeted advertisements or make your browser display certain sites or search results.
These malicious programs are designed to silently bypass firewalls and anti-virus software without the user’s knowledge. This is why in most cases it is not easy to find and kill spyware with anti-virus software. Fortunately however, unlike viruses and worms, spyware programs do not usually self-replicate. But once embedded in a computer, a spyware can wreak havoc on the system’s performance while gathering your personal information.
So where do spyware come from?
To my chagrin I discovered that I, like many people asking how do I protect my computer from spyware, was somehow responsible for allowing spyware into my computer. Most times this comes from downloading Freeware programs.
You may not know it but by downloading a freeware advert-supported program, you’ve allowed spyware or adware into your PC!
Typically, spyware originates in three ways. These are:
1. The first and most common way is when the user installs it, like the example above. In this scenario, spyware is embedded, attached, or bundled with a freeware or shareware program without the user’s knowledge. Once downloaded, the spyware program goes to work collecting data for the spyware author’s personal use or to sell to a third-party.
2. Another way that spyware can access your computer is by tricking you into manipulating the security features designed to prevent any unwanted installations. For example, a pop-up modeled after a standard Windows dialog box, may appear on your screen. The message may ask you if you would like to optimize your internet access. It provides yes or no answer buttons, but, no matter which button you push, a download containing the spyware program will commence.
3. Finally, some spyware applications infect a system by attacking security holes in the Web browser or other software. When the user navigates a webpage controlled by a spyware author, the page contains code designed to attack the browser, and force the installation of the spyware program.
You may be wondering now, how can I protect my computer from spyware considering all these? The truth is there are a couple things you can do to prevent spyware from infecting your computer system.
a. First, invest in a reliable commercial anti-spyware program. There are several currently on the market including stand alone software packages. Other options provide the anti-spyware software as part of an anti-virus package. Anti-spyware programs can combat spyware by providing real-time protection, scanning, and removal of any found spyware software.
b. The Internet Explorer (IE) is often a contributor to the spyware problem because spyware programs like to attach themselves to its functionality. Spyware enjoys penetrating the IE’s weaknesses. Because of this, many users have switched to non-IE browsers. However, if you prefer to stick with Internet Explorer, be sure to update the security patches regularly, and only download programs from reputable sources. This will help reduce your chances of a spyware infiltration.
c. Beware of many P2P file-sharing programs. They are notorious for downloads that possess spyware programs. The user of a downloadable program should pay extra attention to the accompanying licensing agreement. Often the software publisher will warn the user that a spyware program will be installed along with the requested program. Unfortunately, we do not always take the time to read the fine print. Some agreements may provide special “opt-out” boxes that the user can click to stop the spyware from being included in the download. Be sure to review the document before signing off on the download.
But if all these fails?
Finally, if your computer has been infected with a large number of spyware programs, the only solution you may have is backing up your data, and performing a complete reinstall of the operating system.
If you’ve been inundated with the spyware menace and having been asking, “how do I protect my computer from spyware and adware” or “how do I find and kill spyware”, I hope these suggestions will be of help to you.