Spyware is a term given to programs that collect information about your and/or your computer without your knowledge. Not only is this an invasion of privacy, but these programs are often used to spread viruses, send spam, send advertisements, and/or to give you excessive pop-up ads. Even worse, some poorly written spyware can also cause your Internet connection or Internet Explorer to stop functioning.
There are three symptoms the show up when a computer is infected with spyware:
- Internet Explorer does not seem to function properly.
- You are getting an excessive amount of pop-up ads.
- Your computer is running much more slowly than is usual or expected.
If you have any combination of these problems, then it is probably due to either a virus or to spyware. If you already have a good, up-to-date anti-virus program, then you should follow these recommendations.
- Get the latest updates for your operating system.
- Be careful which links you click on when browsing the web. Sometimes a single click can install spyware on your system. The same is true for links in AIM profiles.
- Download, update, and run a spyware removal tool, such as AdAware or SpyBot. Both of these products are free to the individual user.
- Be very careful of which programs you download and install onto your computer. Sometimes seemingly innocent programs, such as screensavers, cute cursors, themes, or smileys are really spyware disguised as something "fun." This is especially true of peer-to-peer filesharing programs such as Kazaa; they are full of spyware and ads. Sometimes spyware programmers even create so-called "spyware removal tools" that are actually running spyware of their own! If you’re not sure if a program falls into this category, research it before installing it onto your computer. Google is a very useful tool for this purpose.
- If you are having recurrent problems with spyware, then you may want to consider switching internet browsers. Internet Explorer, for several reasons, is more prone to spyware problems than other browsers. Our favorite browser is FireFox, which has the bonus of a built-in pop-up blocker.