The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
announced that it had used existing fair trade laws in
asking a federal court to shut down some of the leading
distributors of malicious "spyware" or "adware"
software. This type of malicious software may be lumped
with viruses, worms, and spam, and is all referred to as
"malware" - short for malicious software.
What are spyware and adware software?
Spyware and adware are software that is installed on your
computer, generally without your knowledge, that monitors
or controls your computer's use. The software may send
pop-up ads, redirect you to an un-requested website while
you are on the Internet, monitor your Internet activity or
record your keystrokes while you are online. This
recording of keystrokes may lead to identity theft or
credit card fraud.
The terms "spyware" and "adware" are
the essentially same type of software. They are software
that you may not be aware of running on your computer.
The online marketers who distribute this type of software
maintain that you have downloaded the software to help
them better service your Internet marketing needs. They
would also state that you received their software as part
of another free software package that you downloaded and
installed. Lastly, that during the download process, that
you clicked on the "agree" button, where there
was their statement that you would accept online pop-up
ads for their advertised products.
This same software that have victimized individuals with a
mysterious change in their opening Internet page, a new
default search engine, an avalanche of pop-up ads while
online, computer slow downs or a computer crash - know the
software as spyware.
Any unsolicited software that runs on your computer is
malicious spyware software.
Regardless of what it is called -- your computer is
infected just the same. Simply clicking on a banner ad can
install spyware software. Worms, which are
self-propagating viruses, can also carry spyware. They
search for machines that don't have up-to-date security
patches and install their crippling software. Spyware may
also be distributed by email.
As stated before the biggest method of distributing
spyware is to secretly bundle it with free software that
you download from the Internet. Sites that offer music
sharing, videos, weather data, games, screen savers, a
tool bar, or program that synchronizes your computer's
clock often are paid to distribute this spyware as adware.
Such as file sharing programs like Kazaa, has adware
bundled right in the package download.
Before these programs are installed, you must click a box
saying you accept the contractual agreement. These
agreements can be thousands of words long and people
rarely read them. Upon closer examination, however, they
would find that accepting pop-up ad serving software were
part of getting the package.
Another common method is a message saying you need to
download ActiveX to view a website or email note. Don't do
it! It's just another method to get you to click yes to
Sometimes the presentation is an outright counterfeit of a
Microsoft agreement or some other recognizable document. A
safe rule to follow: If you're not sure what it is, don't
click yes. Cancel out of the program any way you can, even
if it means rebooting your computer.
Unlike virus writers, who mainly want to infect as many
computers as they can just so they can brag, spyware
distribution firms have a financial incentive to have
their software stay on your computer as long as possible.
The more of their ads that they load onto your computer
screen, the more likely that you will click on one of the
Is Your Computer Infected?
To eliminate spyware, you must track down every file and
completely erase it. That can be tough since spyware hides
inside your computer's operating system, making it
difficult to find.
If you suspect that your computers is infected and want to
search the Internet for an "anti-spyware"
solution -- be careful.
A Google search will return over 1,500,000 for "anti
spyware software". You will return about 749,000 hits
for the phrase "anti-spyware software". Some
companies that offer anti-spyware software solutions also
make spyware software. Who else would know how to remove
spyware then the makers of spyware software? Their anti-spyware
software may remove a version of spyware on your computer
but discretely load a more current version of their
spyware to be launched in a few days after you had thought
that you had cleaned-up your spyware problem on your
You may download three free spyware cleaning programs
Ad-Aware ( www.lavasoftusa.com
), Spybot ( www.security.kolla.de
), and CWshredder ( www.spywareinfo.com/merijn/index.html
Before you run any of these, use their automatic update
feature to get the latest protection. Some users report
better results when they make repeated passes with each of
the three programs.
Cleaners can remove most of an infection, rendering it
temporarily inactive. But components sometimes remain that
download more files and re-infect your computer. Sometimes
it helps to disconnect from the Internet, then reboot
after you run the cleaner. If you know how to manage a
fire wall like Zone Alarm, you may be able to use it to
prevent persistent spyware from reconstituting itself.
If your computer is so bogged down with spyware, you may
trouble downloading the anti- spyware products before your
computer crashes. In that case, you may have to obtain the
programs from another computer with a CD burner, and then
the software onto your troubled computer using a CD.
Scan your hard drive at least once a week with two or more
anti-spyware programs because each is likely to find files
the other overlooks.
Ongoing Anti-Spyware Protection!
To prevent future infections, never click on any popup ads
or the body of any spam emails. Try closing unwanted
pop-up ads using Alt-F4 in Windows. The Alt-F4 is a
keystroke combination that decreases the risk you'll click
on a disguised button to close a window that will actually
open another window.
Keep your computer up to date with the latest security
patches. Microsoft offers free updates at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com
, and free CDs can be ordered for users on slow-speed
Windows recently announced the release of XP's Service
Pack 2, which provides additional security measures such
as a limited spyware blocker and a firewall.
Protection is an ongoing process since spyware makers are
constantly creating new threats. You may download a good
computer resources manager and security manager at www.onlinesoftwareguide.com/wintask
Install a personal firewall. ZoneAlarm from Zone Labs has
a free basic firewall for personal use. Symantec and
McAfee sell popular personal firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware
Next, set the computer's operating system for daily
Also set the Web browser to a medium or high-security
level. For Windows, go to Microsoft's Web site for
instructions. Windows XP users should install Service Pack
2, which makes it close to impossible for software to be
downloaded without your being alerted. Consider switching
to browser less popular than Internet Explorer, such as
Mozilla Firefox (mozilla.org) or Opera (opera.com). They
are less likely to be attacked.
If you have any problem implementing any of the above, be
sure and contact your computer consultant. Finally,
practice safe surfing. That means downloading only
trustworthy software, reading licensing agreements,
avoiding banner ads, and deleting all spam without
Tips for Protecting You and Your Computer.
Do not click "yes" when an Active X dialog box
keeps popping up unless you know exactly what you're
downloading. .Do not open and delete all suspicious email
messages. .Do not fill out any web forms asking for your
social security number, driver's license, email passwords,
bank account information, or your mother's maiden name. Do
not download or install any software unless you know and
trust the source 100%. .Do not give your email address to
anyone you don't know. Clear out cookies and other
tracking data on your computer. Try using disposable email
accounts when filling out forms on the Internet. Do not
enter any sweepstakes or contests online. Most of them
capture your personal information and sell it to third
party vendors. Install software to counter-attack Spyware,
Adware, Spam and pop-up ads. You can file a complaint
about unsolicited spyware software with the FTC at:
www.ftc.govClick on "File a Complaint."
Websites That You Can Trust To Help.
Ad-Aware ( www.lavasoftusa.com
Spybot ( www.security.kolla.de
CWshredder ( www.spywareinfo.com/merijn/index.html
WinTask, Manages Resources and Improves Security ( www.onlinesoftwareguide.com/wintask
Download of Ad-aware and Spybot Search &
Destroy ( www.download.com
Spyware information tools, tips, and vendor for
Trend Micro software ( www.housecall.trendmicro.com
McAfee anti-virus and anti-spyware software ( www.mcafee.com
Windows security patches and spyware protection
information ( www.microsoft.com/athome/security/viruses
Virus and spyware scans ( www.pcpitstop.com
Lists software that may spread spyware ( www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm
Norton spyware information ( www.symantec.com/avcenter/
Spy Sweeper anti-spyware ( www.webroot.com
Zonelabs firewall ( www.zonelabs.com