I just had, by mistake, a plug-in called Intelligent Explorer attach to my browser. What a nightmare! I have another article on this topic, but this brings home a point. Spyware or adware items are continually infecting computers. Most computers have no protection from them. Most frightening is the frequency of them. From the InfosecWriters web site, "According to a 2004 survey by America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance, 91% of users questioned were familiar with the term spyware. Only 53% believed their computers were infected, but a scan found that 80% of their PCs had some type of spyware installed on them." It goes on to say, "...The average number of spyware components per computer was 93 with one computer having well over a thousand."
What is Spyware?
Butte College (www.bctv.butte.edu/support/spyware.html) offers this definition:
“The term ‘spyware’ is broadly defined as any program that gets into your computer without permission and hides in the background while it makes unwanted changes to your user experience.
Spyware is generally not designed to damage your computer. The damage it does is more a by-product of its main mission, which is to serve you targeted advertisements or make your browser display certain sites or search results.
At present, most spyware targets only the Windows operating system (Internet Explorer).”
To be fair, spyware can be harmless, for example tracking cookies don’t do much. While such things infringe on your privacy, they don't really harm anything. Others, however, are extremely dangerous.
So what do you do about it?
No spyware program seems to do everything, but there are a lot of goods solutions out there that can help. Here is a list of some of the top Spyware tools to look at:
1) Try Ad-Aware 6.0 Professional from LavaSoft (there is also a free version with less functionality)
2) Spybot Search & Destroy from PepiMK Software
3) Xoftspy form Pareto Logic
5) Spyware Guard from Javacool Software is a free program
4) Pest Patrol (now part of Computer Associates by acquisition)
5) McAfee Anti-Spyware
One thing is for certain: you do need to take spyware seriously. For some reason, too many people out there think anti-virus solutions are the end-all solution. They are not.
And, when all else fails?
Finally, as drastic as it seems, if your computer has been infected with a large number of spyware programs, the only solution you may have is backing up your data, and performing a complete reinstall of the operating system.