What is Spyware?
Spyware is a broad term often used to describe unwelcome programs that take up residence on a computer's hard drive. They typically appear when computer users download freeware or shareware from the Internet. They also can be passed around through emails and peer-to-peer applications such as instant messaging and music file-sharing software, or even installed without your knowledge while simply browsing the Internet.
Why should I be concerned about Spyware?
Spyware is generally not thought to be as much of a threat as a virus or trojan. The aim of spyware is typically not to harm your computer. Rather, it is to quietly monitor your behavior so others can profit at your expense. However, spyware will usually serve additional pop-up ads, redirect searches, and change your home page. Some spyware is more sinister, looking to collect your personal data. Worst case scenario, this data can get in the wrong hands and you'll get ripped off. In almost all cases your privacy may be violated by this unwanted, uninvited, parasitic software residing in your computer.
The problems really begin when more than one Spyware program is running, and that's when most people show up on this site. These programs are deeply embedded in the Windows operating system, often poorly written, and they just don't get along very well. Spyware can cause all kinds of systems errors, browser crashes, lockups, random reboots, and many other annoying problems that are otherwise difficult to diagnose. Microsoft estimates half of their crash related support calls are spyware related.
How do I check for Spyware and eliminate it from my system?
Spyware is designed to be difficult to identify and remove. It usually requires special tools. Thankfully, there are free software products available that are designed to seek out and remove Spyware.
(Note: Simply click the links below, download to your computer, and install:)
Spybot Search & Destroy (Here's a nice Spybot Tutorial)
CWShredder (tool to remove Coolwebsearch)
If you have difficulty using any of these programs, or need additional help, please start a new topic in our computer help forum in the Spyware Support forum (or simply Click Here).
It's recommended that you install more than one of these programs to remove all the threats on your system. Spyware is constantly evolving and having additional tools on your side can only help. Also, be sure to update the software after installing it.
Occasionally, there's a new, or especially stubborn threat that will remain after cleansing with one of the programs above. In that case download and run a scan with Hijack This. Click Here for a quick start guide on using Hijack This.
How did all those nasty things get on your computer?
Typically three ways:
1. Marketing. Developed by the marketers to gather personal data for use in targeted ad campaigns, spyware monitors what users type and the sites they visit, gather personal information and deliver often unwanted ads. Marketing companies pay huge money for companies to attach Spyware to their software. For example, recently a major tax software provider (the most popular tax software) attached Spyware to their software. When you installed it, it also attached Spyware to parts of your computer. The program actually failed to function unless those Spyware components existed, because they were getting commission from marketing companies who were continuously receiving data about the software user's computer. Lots of other software comes with Spyware too.
2. Browsing. Yes, simply browsing the Internet can you can also get infected via a random "drive-by download". Just by visiting a site embedded with spyware code. Also, sometimes a message will pop up asking if some website program can be loaded on your computer. Sometimes people say "yes" without thinking. It's important to regularly run Windows Update. Keeping your computer up-to-date will prevent most Spyware from finding it's way onto your computer via browsing.
3. Shareware Anything billed as "free" most likely will have spyware or adware attached to it. Spyware can get on your computer by unknowingly installing Spyware software disguised as shareware. Believe it or not, some Spyware companies will make shareware that does simple useful tasks. Although the software does do what it claims to do, it also has a hidden task of reporting sensitive information about your computer to a marketing company. When you install shareware, I suggest doing five minutes of research on a software maker before installed its shareware software. Try www.Spywarechecker.com.
How do I prevent a spyware?
1. It's the easiest, most important, and totally free! Keep your system updated with all critical patches and updates. Click Here to visit Windows Update
2. Avoid visiting certain types of sites. Some sites -- especially "adult" sites, warez sites, sites for hackers and crackers, and some "free" on line journal or diary sites -- attempt to plant spyware on a visitor's computer.
3. These programs can help prevent a spyware hijacking.
Note: Simply click the links below, download to your computer, and install:
Browser Hijacker Blaster
Spyware Blaster (recommended)
Note: Of course, if you already have spyware, you'll need to remove it before installing any prevention software.
4. Change to a different Web Browser, such as Firefox or Opera they can prevent many infections, as most attacks are directed at Internet Explorer's weaknesses.
Questions? Comments? Visit our Spyware Forum