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About Spyware

Spyware is 'aggressive commercial' software that uses various methods to get installed on your PC and attempt to sell you things or, in some cases, scam money from you.

Symptoms of Spyware

Spyware can do one, some or more of the following:

  • throw up advertising pop-ups at random times while browsing.
  • change your browsers 'Start-up Page' and/or the browser 'Search Page'.
  • add unnecessary toolbars to your browser.
  • send information about your web browsing off-site - hence the name 'Spyware' - some Spyware programs may log keyboard input.
  • slow down your PC.
  • dial-up high value lines - if you haven't got a modem the attempts to locate a modem slows your PC.

How Does Spyware Get On Your PC?

Spyware gets on your PC in several different ways:

  • Trojans, delivered by viruses, install Spyware or bring down Spyware from the web.
  • free programs e.g. music sharing programs, come bundled with Spyware.
  • some web sites drop Spyware directly onto your PC.

Protect Yourself

Here is my 'Keep safe from Spyware' advice:

  • keep Windows up-to-date with 'Windows Updates'.
  • ensure your IE security settings for the 'Internet zone' are set to 'Medium' or higher:
    1. start Internet Explorer.
    2. click 'Tools' menu, then 'Internet Options' option.
    3. click on the 'Security' tab then click on the 'Internet' option (has a globe icon). If the 'Security level for this zone' is not set to 'Medium' or 'High' you have modified it at some time.
    4. click on the 'Default Level' button - see slider set to 'Medium'.
    5. click OK.
  • use Mozilla Firefox for most browsing (still use IE for IE only pages). Mozilla Firefox does NOT support ActiveX which is widely used by Spyware.
  • install Ad-Aware SE to detect and remove spyware from Windows computers.
  • do NOT accept unknown 'ActiveX' programs off the web - unknown ActiveX programs are a big source of dangerous Spyware.
  • if you get unexpected dialog boxes while browsing the web - use the cross in the top-right of dialog boxes to close them.
  • don't download shareware or freeware unless you know that it is an 'established product'.
  • be very suspicious of entertainment software e.g. music sharing, video players.
  • be very suspicious of all freeware/Shareware including: web accelerators, Spam blockers, AntiSpyware programs (yes!), AntiSpam programs - only download well recommended software.
  • run AntiVirus software and be wary of attachments in email.

Cleaning up Spyware

  1. use Ad-Aware SE to detect and remove spyware from Windows computers.


This page was last updated on April 9, 2007

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