Thursday, August 31, 2006

Common Spyware Solutions

I've run into several people that have asked me to help them fix the problems associated with Spyware, Adware, Trojans and other misc. malicious programs. Often times people have told me they had to call "Geek Squad" or gone to their local computer shop and paid good hard earned money to remedy the situation. So I decided to pass along some useful information that provides FREE solutions that any computer user can use.

Before I start I'll say that obviously the best way to avoid problems with spyware and viruses is smart computing. Pay close attention to the sites you visit and the things you download. Don't click on banner ads that lead you to random sites that you don't know anything about. If you do go there make sure you don't allow any content to be installed on your computer. And I must say most important of all is once you notice a problem take care of it as soon as possible. Spyware can lead to worse viruses and Trojans that can and will still your personal information.

Spyware defined:
"In the field of computing, the term spyware refers to a broad category of malicious software designed to intercept or take partial control of a computer's operation without the informed consent of that machine's owner or legitimate user. While the term taken literally suggests software that surreptitiously monitors the user, it has come to refer more broadly to software that subverts the computer's operation for the benefit of a third party.

In simpler terms, spyware is a type of program that watches after what users do with their computer and then send this information to a hacker over the internet. Spyware can collect many different types of information about a user. More benign programs can attempt to track what types of websites a user visits and send this information to an advertisement agency. More malicious versions can try to record what a user types to try to intercept passwords or credit card numbers. Yet other versions simply launch popups with advertisements."

Suggested Applications:
First and foremost you need to make sure that you have all the latest patches and updates installed from Microsoft. Then I strongly suggest using a browser other than Internet Explorer. Browsers such as FireFox or Opera are much safer, much more secure and more feature packed! However they aren't perfect, but I at least recommend trying them out and forming your own opinions.

The following applications are available free of charge! Make sure you download and install the latest version of the software.

Once you install one of these applications you need to run the update process! Anti Spyware utilities need to be updated just like anti virus utilities so they must have the latest reference files to be successful.

If these utilities fail to clean up the problem please run HijackThis. This application will create a log of all installed and running applications. Once you have done that and created a log file you can visit a tech site such as and post the log file and ask someone for help. Use a descriptive subject like "Problem with spyware" post the information you have available and someone will help you out.

It is also important to note that some "Anti Spyware" utilities ARE SPYWARE They may work to clean up some spyware, but they may also install their own spyware so sticking with the popular solutions given above will be helpful.

Another suggestion is to try using an online virus scanner such as
TrendMicro House Call
Panda Active Scan
Do a full scan to make sure viruses are not causing the problem.
A great free virus scanner is available for download from Grisoft.

One finally tip, you need to turn off system restore and boot to safe mode while running these scans and removing your spyware or viruses. Booting to safe mode is easy. Continually press the f8 key right after your computer starts.

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