Spyware and adware– Software that installs itself on your computer without your knowledge to track your surfing, call pop-up ads or steal your passwords or credit card numbers – is a growing problem for all Internet users. Before we look at how to remove spyware and adware, it is worth trying to understand what they actually are and why they are dangerous.
First, some definitions help. Spyware is a real problem. Adware is usually benign. Adware is simply another way of defining software – you’ve probably heard of freeware (completely free software) and shareware (software that you can use and pay for later if you like it). Adware is simply software that has another way to cover development costs – it displays ads when you use it. Some versions of the Eudora email program are adware – ads appear in the left column when you read your email. Adware usually doesn’t hide itself, although its ads can be annoying.
From that moment on, you’re in trouble. Spyware monitors your browsing habits and displays excessive pop-ups. Sometimes these pop-ups are advertisements for pornographic sites. Spyware can change your browser’s home page settings. It may replace legitimate ads or links on the sites you visit. Or it could simply wait until you log into your bank or make an online credit card purchase, store your information and send it to the spyware creators. Your modem may run wild even when you’re not doing anything online.
Spyware is a parasite – it uses your computer’s resources to slow it down, slows down your browsing speed by generating its own web traffic, and leaves you open to exploitation and theft.
Often times, if your computer has been in use for more than a few months and is connected to the Internet, it will have invisibly installed several spyware programs that all work together to slow down your computer’s performance. In fact, most people only realize they have a problem when their computer becomes slower and slower in all functions, especially when they are online. Some users have been known to give up and just buy a new computer as a desperate solution. But soon the cycle of infection starts again.
So how to remove spyware and adware? If you regularly update your operating system with the latest security patches, you reduce the likelihood of getting infected. One of the main reasons why Microsoft releases patches so often is to protect users from spyware authors who have found ways to use the tight integration of Microsoft’s browser and the Windows operating system to allow “bypass” or automatic software installations.
Another way to limit the impact of spyware is to switch from using the most vulnerable and exploited browser, Internet Explorer, to another browser, such as Mozilla Firefox.
Sometimes, if the spyware infection is extreme, it is recommended to back up all your files and reinstall the operating system from scratch using the original CDs, although this may be too risky or technically challenging for most computer users.
Another way, and probably the easiest way to get rid of spyware and adware, is to install special software. This usually deals with spyware in two ways. First, it scans your computer and detects any spyware that has infected your computer and gives you the option to remove them. then it runs in the background and prevents new spyware from installing itself. It will warn you about any suspicious programs or scripts that try to install themselves. For this software to be effective, it needs to update itself regularly to keep up with the latest spyware.
This type of anti-spyware is now essential for all computers connected to the Internet. If you don’t already have an anti-spyware program, it’s time to get one. Most vendors will offer you a free scan so you can immediately see if your computer has spyware. Since scanning is free, you have nothing to lose!