Keeping Your Computer Spyware Free
Many experienced Web users have learned how to recognize spyware, avoid it, and delete it. But that might not be enough. According to officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, spyware poses a big enough threat that all computer users need to be aware of signs that spyware has been installed on their machines, and then take the appropriate steps to delete it.
Some of the clues that spyware has invaded your computer include an influx of pop-up ads, a “hijacked” browser – one that takes you to a destination other than the one you typed in your search box – and a sudden change in your computer home page. New toolbars, new icons in your system tray and random error messages may also signal that your computer has been infected with the likes of nasty spyware.
Unfortunately, these symptoms mirror an infecting virus as well. Many computer users rush to blame faulty antivirus software, only to realize after the fact that they’ve actually gotten hit with spyware. The next logical step is to find yourself a couple of really great, highly regarded antispyware programs and run their scans to get rid of whatever it is that has snagged your system. What about if you’ve just taken your computer out of the box though?
In a seemingly endless uphill battle with spyware, what can you do to stop it before it starts? It turns out, a lot. Consumers can take several steps to lower their risk of spyware infections. Some suggestions include updating your operating system and web browser software; if you are using a system like Windows or Linux, run an update to get the most current patches available to close any holes in the system that spyware might exploit. Or, you can change browsers altogether. Seemingly, browsers like Mozilla Firefox have less spyware to worry about.
Use your head when it comes to downloading free software; take the freebies only from sites you know and trust. It can be appealing to download free software like games, peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, customized toolbars, or other programs that may change or customize the functioning of your computer; but remember, free usually comes with a hidden price tag like adware and spyware.
Your Internet security setting, at a minimum, should be set at Medium. This is necessary to minimize “drive-by downloads.” And whatever you do, don’t click on any links within pop-up windows. If you do, you may unknowingly install spyware on your computer. Instead, take the appropriate action and close pop-up windows by clicking on the red “x” in the top right corner.
Ignore spam emails that offer antispyware software; some of this software actually installs spyware instead of deleting it. Install a personal firewall to stop uninvited users from accessing your computer. A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer and will alert you if spyware already on your computer is sending information out.
If you think your computer might have spyware on it, experts advise that you take three steps: Get an antispyware program from a vendor you know and trust. Set it to scan on a regular basis, at a minimum, once per week, or every time you start your computer, if possible. And, delete any software programs the antispyware program detects that you don’t want on your computer.
Having a spyware-free computer is a wonderful thing. Not only does it save your sanity, it protects your privacy. Take a proactive approach when it comes to spyware and you’ll have a happy, healthy computer on your hands.