One day, you suddenly realize that your computer started to work noticeably
slower than it used to. You decide to run de-fragmentation of your hard drive
and add more virtual memory to the system. No luck! May be, it’s probably
some viruses, you reckon turning on your virus scanning software. Even after
running the anti-virus program you notice that the problem won’t resolve.
Not understanding what’s happening frustrated you pick up the phone. It’s
time to call your tech-support. Sounds familiar? You are not alone! Each day,
thousands of users are facing similar problems caused by malicious software
called Spyware. According to Dell technical support, nowadays 12 percent of
their support calls involve problems related to some kinds of Spyware. Microsoft
reports that fifty percent of all computer crashes are caused by Spyware,
viruses and Trojans.
What is a Spyware?
Spyware – also named Malware or Adware – are malicious software programs,
which most of the time get installed on your computer without your knowledge.
These programs are capable of doing many outrageous, sinister things to your
computer such as changing computer settings, tracking your online behavior,
monitoring and controlling your computer, recording your keystrokes, displaying
unwanted advertisement and reporting needed information back to the person
The main types of Spyware are:
Key loggers: This type of Spyware copies everything you type to a
file and send it to the hacker. The more sophisticated type, which is used
for identity theft, copies the information you provide when you are connected
to a secure website.
Browser hijacker: It modifies browser settings without your permission.
This Spyware is capable of changing your start page, search page, search tool
bar and redirect your url to specific pages.
Email redirector: Surreptitiously copies all your incoming and outgoing
emails and sends to the hacker.
Dialers: This spyware install themselves to your dial-up settings
and dials numbers without your knowledge, often to out of country numbers.
Collectware: The purpose of this Spyware is to track your surfing
habit and transmitting the statistical data to the hacker. This information
later gets sold to advertisement companies.
Adware: This Spyware downloads all sorts of banner advertisements
every time you take some action such as typing a word on your search tool.
Why my antivirus program does not block a Spyware?
Although, Spyware uses same tactics like “Trojan” virus, technically it is
not a virus. A virus is a program written to create trouble or possibly harm
your computer system. Viruses are capable of replicate, evolve and cause severe
damages to your computer files, registry or even hardware. Spyware, on the
other hand, does not harm your computer intentionally. Any nuisance like system
slow down is the collateral damage, which occurs while the Spyware serves
its mission of monitoring your activities and making unwanted changes to your
People rarely read the fine prints of the user agreements while downloading
a file, a program, a game or other free stuffs from the Internet. Unethical
sites use this to their advantage and add tiny Spyware with the file you are
The anti-virus programs can not be sure, whether this program is installed
deliberately by you or it’s a malicious Spyware. This makes identifying and
blocking a Spyware difficult for an Anti-virus program. However, things are
started to change! Major anti-virus companies are planning to integrate anti-spyware
programs to their existing products very soon.
How did I get infected with a Spyware?
There are numerous ways how you might end up with having a Spyware on your
When you download and install
programs, games, smilies, pictures, screensavers from dubious sites, there
is a big chance that you might install a sneaky Spyware along the way.
Some websites and pop-up windows
try to download and install Spyware while you are there. According a recent
analysis of sex-based websites, up to 80 percent of these sites are now being
used to upload Spyware, worms and Trojans to unsuspecting visitors.
Some add-ons to you browser that
is supposed to enhance your browser experience may secretively install Spyware.
The most cynical method of infecting
you with Spyware is when you receive a sudden pop-up ad, which claims that
your computer is contaminated and you have to run certain program to cure
your system. If you are credulous enough to run this program, it just installs
a Spyware instead of eliminating any.
How to fight back?
If you carefully follow the instructions outlined below, your chances of
getting infected with Spyware are pretty slim.
Update your Windows
Allow your version of Windows to update it automatically. Ensure that
you have all the latest security patches installed.
Use Firefox as your default browser
Since Internet Explorer is the main target for many Spyware, you will
be better of with Mozilla Firefox. Moreover, it is a better browser than IE
in many aspects.
Be extremely careful with your downloads
Try not to download anything from a unknown site. If you still feel like
getting a shareware or freeware program check it out on one of these online
Spyware database. Spychecker is one such service, and Camtech 2000's Spy Chaser
is a nifty downloadable database of nearly 1000 spyware-infested programs.
Use an Anti-Spyware application
Download and install one of the following anti-spyware programs: Ad-aware, Spybot or Microsoft
AntiSpyware. Although, Microsoft’s Anti-Spyware is still at beta stage,
I am using it and very happy with its performance.
Get a Firewall
If you are using Windows XP with Service Pack 2, you are probably fine! In
other cases, if your computer is connected to the Internet directly you should
get a firewall and install it. Zone
alarm is a great firewall you can download for free.
A recently conducted survey of the Top Network Security threats
in 2005 reveals that two-thirds of IT managers and administrators believe
that Spyware will be the number one threat to network security. So don’t take
any chance! Make sure that you are protected!