Avoiding Spyware

Tips & Hints

Spyware is now a bigger problem than viruses

Posted 25 June, 2004

Spyware first became common three years ago and has steadily grown. But in the last few months we have been seeing nearly 30% of computers affected by spyware. Some of these computers have been crippled by it.

Spyware is the generic name for software that spies on your web surfing, inserts adverts onto your computer, hijacks your homepage or redirects all your web browsing. It usually sneaks onto your computer as part of another program or from a website. Putting aside security issues, a lot of this software is badly written and slows or damages computers.

It appears we have reached the point where spyware is a bigger problem than viruses. This is partly due to the prevalence of spyware and the fact that most people are aware of the virus risk. Computer users need to be aware of the how to avoid spyware.

Stop using Internet Explorer.

Internet Explorer makes it easy for spyware to infect your computer and we recommend not using it. Useful alternatives are Mozilla, Opera, Netscape or Safari (for Mac users.) You will still need Internet Explorer for some sites, notably banks and airlines.

Be careful of free software

Many free software packages are subsidised by spyware distributors. File sharing programs like Kazaa are the worst. Before installing free programs, check that they are not known spyware spreaders. This isn’t to say all free software has spyware, none of the programs mentioned here do. Also, spyware can come in on paid software. The worse problems are still found on machines with file sharing software.

Take care of the sites you visit

Avoiding some sites can reduce the likelihood of catching spyware. Undesirable sites, like pornography and pirate software sites, are the worst culprits. But you can still catch spyware from more “respectable” sites.

Don’t agree to any pop-ups!

The easiest way to fall for spyware is to click on a popup that warns you something terrible is happening to your computer (“your computer clock is wrong!”) Don’t agree to install anything unless you understand what it does.

Removing spyware

Removing spyware can be difficult. Some spyware can damage your Windows system or stop you getting onto the net. The steps are as follows.
  1. Go to the Add/Remove Programs section of your computer’s Control Panel. Uninstall any programs that are suspicious. A list of spyware programs is at spyware.com.
  2. The worst spyware is probably Cool Web Search. This beast will stop spyware removers from operating. It’s important to download and run CWS Shredder before running any other software.
  3. The best general purpose spyware removal tools are Spybot and Adaware. These programs will remove most spyware. Make sure you run the update options before running them.
  4. Patch your systems. Visit the Windows Update website to close any obvious security holes. This will also help protect from viruses.
  5. Visit our Protection Kit page which goes into the details of protecting systems from spyware and viruses.
  6. Find the name of good computer tech before removing spyware. Some spyware will leave nasty effects on your computer.
Spyware has infested the Web. It’s unlikely you can completely avoid it and if it does get on your computer it can cause a lot of problems. We recommend you regularly run the spyware removal tools to keep your computer clean.

PC Rescue Pty Ltd
Suite 236, 4 Young Street Neutral Bay NSW 2089
ABN 082 635 765
©Technology Publishing Australia, 2011