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All About Spyware

You’ve heard about and, you know it’s bad. We hear alarming statistics like “over 90% of personal computers are already compromised by spyware” and “spyware and other potentially unwanted programs are rapidly becoming the number one threat to business systems”. But just what is it?

According to McAfee Inc., the leader in spyware protection solutions:

Spyware is any software whose function includes the transmission of company or personal information to a third party without their knowledge. The consequences of undetected spyware and other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) could include identity theft, system and network corruption, slower Internet access, reduced system productivity, and an increased number of pop-up ads.

To put it another way, spyware on your computer can send out to another computer, and ultimately another person, anything and everything on your computer and everything you do on your computer.

A better but much longer (and my personal favorite) definition of spyware comes from geekpatroloncall.com. They define spyware as:

Spyware is potentially more dangerous beast than Adware because it can record your keystrokes, history, passwords, and other confidential and private information. Spyware is often sold as a spouse monitor, child monitor, a surveillance tool or simply as a tool to spy on users to gain unauthorized access. Spyware is also known as: snoopware, PC surveillance, key logger, system recorders, Parental control software, PC recorder, Detective software and Internet monitoring software.

Spyware covertly gathers user information and activity without the user's knowledge. Spy software can record your keystrokes as you type them, passwords, credit card numbers, sensitive information, where you surf, chat logs, and can even take random screenshots of your activity. Basically whatever you do on the computer is completely viewable by the spy. You do not have to be connected to the Internet to be spied upon.

However you define it, spyware is plain old bad.

Here are a few tips to help protect you from spyware:

1. Buy a good, comprehensive software program that protects your computer. I use McAfee Internet Security Suite and XoftSpy, which is a malware scanner. These products can stop spyware. If it’s already on your computer, they find it and delete it for good (www.delete4good.com)

2. There is no such thing as a free lunch. When you download freeware or shareware, chances are that you are downloading spyware with it. Therefore, only download software from sources that you can absolutely trust.

3. Certain “types” of websites are notorious for injecting your computer with spyware. Those “types” of websites include: peer-to-peer sites, free games websites, and pornographic sites. If you frequent these type of website, make sure your computer is protected (see number 1 above).

4. Make sure that your web-browser security settings are configured correctly. This can prevent spyware or other malicious software from automatically downloading on your computer.

5. Never, never, never click on pop-up ads. I know that some pop-up are irresistible. But they are irresistible for a reason. Pop-ups are meant to get your attention. But if in the pursuit of your attention, they get you to click on them, you may get more than you bargain for.

If you happen to see a pop-up that is advertising something that you just have to have more information on, just take note of the item it’s advertising and do a keyword search on it. But never click on the actual ad.

Spyware protection has turned into a multibillion-dollar business. But, even the best spyware protection is useless if you don’t take necessary precautions. Reducing your risk to being exposed to spyware better than anything. Doing just a little bit of research and taking a few precautions can greatly reduce your risk of being exposed to not only spyware but also adware, viruses, trojans and other so called malware.

Submitted by:

J. Barbour

J. Barbour is a consultant for Weinman-Skaggs Consulting in Miami, FL. http://www.delete4good.com.

pfcb@yahoo.com





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