Security For Computer Users
What is Spyware?
Spyware is a general term for programs that could monitor your computer use or look for personal data stored on your computer. It can be installed on your computer without your knowledge, sometimes through free programs downloaded from the internet, or peer-to-peer file-sharing like Bear Share or Kazaa
Different forms of spyware can pop up ads on your computer screen, track your online activities or hijack your browser. At the very least, these programs can slow your system down. At its worst, spyware can log your keystrokes, scan your hard drive and change your system's settings, paving a way for identity thieves to capture your personal information.
When we are called because a customer reports a problem with their computer we end up dealing with computers infected with spyware more than all other issues combined.
Spyware acts much like a virus, some are even classified as such by anti-virus companies. If you have ever had a pop-up happen out of the blue without a browser loaded, or when you do a search you always end up on some weird site that seems to sell a lot of Viagra, and Valium, you have spyware.
According to a study released in 2004 by America Online and the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance, 80 per cent of home computers were infected with spyware.
Types of Spyware
- software that displays pop-up ads as the program is running. Some adware becomes a form of spyware when it tracks a user's surfing habits and passes that information to a third party
- Malware or malicious software
- generally used as a catch-all term to refer to any program created to do damage to a computer system
- A Trojan Horse
- a program that appears to be useful, but its actual intent is to cause damage to your computer, or compromise your confidential information
- A browser hijacker
- software that can change your homepage and redirect your search engines
- A keyboard logger
- one of the more potentially dangerous types of spyware
- These programs can record the keystrokes you make on your computer such as your PIN number, passwords and other confidential information
- Internet dialers or web dialers
- this software can dial long distance numbers
- usually for adult chat line services overseas
- this program can install itself on a user's computer through
- a virus
- MP3 files
- visiting some porn sites
- Victims of internet dialers don't realize their modem has been compromised until their phone bill arrives with thousands of dollars in long distance charges
How to prevent Spyware
- Before installing free software, read the licence agreement. Security experts say that most people don't read the disclosure that comes with the free program, which states that the recipients have given their agreement to have information on their online habits collected and sent back to the company's site for marketing purposes
- Only download programs from websites you trust. If you're unsure about a program, do some research to see if anyone has reported spyware in connection with it
- Be cautious with free file-sharing programs. Find out whether there is other software packaged with the freeware. That so-called free program may come bundled with some spyware
- install anti-spyware programs. Make sure they're updated
- Do not click on any links in an e-mail or in pop-up ads offering anything for free. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- install updated anti-virus software and a firewall. Anti-virus programs can prevent infections, and a good firewall will help filter unwanted communication between the internet and your computer
It only takes a few minutes to protect yourself so be sure and be safe.
Getting rid of Spyware
Tomorrow we'll deal with getting rid of spyware from your computer
As always, should you have any questions about your computer, do not hesitate in picking up the phone or writing... better to contact me and be sure.
Tom @ Tata Computers