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Spy ware, Adware and Malware:

Most people have heard of computer viruses but many have never heard of spy ware. Spy Ware has become the largest threat to computer users, surpassing Viruses/Worms and Cracker attacks. Spy ware was initially developed as a demographic marketing tool. The concept is, when you visit a site the site will send down a piece of spy ware, which is a small program that collects your browsing habits. The spy ware runs in the background taking up resources of computer and slowing it down to a small extent. When it has collected the data it then sends the data back to the originating site. This way the people who run the site can see your browsing/buying habits and target you with junk e-mail (SPAM). Now there are many different types of spy ware (1000s), the type just described, others hijack your web browser and change it's look and function, some like viruses can lie dormant and collect your username, password, and credit card information and then when you are on-line transmit them to a web site that collects the information. Besides invading your privacy and stealing your personal information spy ware slows down your machine and makes it act not normal. As I said earlier a spy ware program will slow your machine down to some extent. Now multiply that by 100 or 1000 pieces of spy ware running and your computer comes to a complete halt. If you think 1000 pieces of spy ware running on one machine is a stretch I have cleaned machines with over 17,000 traces of spy ware running (but the computer was not running very well). In the year 2005 we saw an increase of over 8,000 new traces each month! That was a yearly increase of over 96,000 new threats in a year.

INDICATIONS OF SPY WARE INFECTION: The following are some of the symptoms of spyware infection:

  • Poor system performance, especially while browsing the Internet.
  • The computer stops responding more frequently.
  • Computer takes longer to open the Windows desktop.
  • Browser closes unexpectedly or stops responding.
  • Performing a search from a search page provides results on a different site.
  • Clicking a link does nothing or goes to a non-related Web site.
  • Browser home page changes and may not be able to be reset.
  • Pop-up advertising windows appear when the browser is not open or over Web pages that do not normally have pop-ups.
  • Additional toolbars are added to the browser.
  • Web pages are automatically added to list of favorites.
  • Desktop icons are automatically added to the desktop.
  • Large unexpected phone bills. (Porn Dialer).

Spy ware Removal and Prevention:

 There are products to block and remove spy ware from invading your computer. The best I have seen and it is rated number 1 by PC Magazine is Spy Sweeper by Webroot ($30.00/for the first year and $20.00 for every year after that). Not only does Spy Sweeper remove spy ware from an already infected computer but also it will block new spy ware from invading the computer. There are a few free spy ware tools on the web such as Spybot and Adware but their definition libraries are much smaller (about 12,000 traces at this writing and there is Microsofts Spyware tool at about (30,000 traces). Compare those free tools to Spy Sweepers library with over 125,000 traces. So naturally they don't do as good a job and they're meant to clean up a computer not block spy ware from entering. No matter which you choose as with any anti-virus solution-keep them up-to-date. Spy Sweeper is available from Computer Guy.