Since 2006, Spyware has become the biggest security threat to computers running on Microsoft Windows systems. According to a survey taken by the National Cyber Security Alliance, over 80% of home PC users have Spyware installed on their computers unknowingly.
So what does it do? At best, it could bog your computer down to very slow speeds. At worst, it steals your personal information and often hands it over to a third party. So how does it get there? Sometimes it comes pre-installed on your computer, but the most common way is by downloading from an unreliable source. The most popular downloads that bundle Spyware are screen savers, toolbars, and torrents. However, sometimes you can get infected from a reputable source too. They will ask you if you would like to install optional programs which often contain Spyware. Once you are infected by one, you have a higher risk to become infected by even more. The safest bet it to always run a reputable anti-virus program, but again: we will see more potential threats.
The companies that produce spyware are also now producing free Anti-Virus programs and Anti-Spyware programs that appear to be legitimate, but are actually fake. They will claim that you are infected with many viruses when in fact, you are not. The idea is that you will be scammed into buying their anti-virus program which will only add to your spyware problem. These types of programs are also called Scareware. You can look at reviews on any program that you might have doubts about at http://cnet.com.
So – How do I remove the Spyware?
1. First of all, make sure to consider getting a good Anti-Virus platform and make sure to update it regularly. They are the first layer of protection against malicious software. Free versions get the job done, but there’s a reason why they are free (and you run the risk of downloading a “fake” anti-virus program). I would reccomend Avast! or Avira Anti-Virus.
2. Start by downloading Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool at http://www.microsoft.com/security/malwareremove/default.aspx. Make sure you install all updates for the best results. Note: The program is designed to find only the most common spyware, but is an important starting point.
3. If you were unable to find any traces of Spyware, it’s time for a full virus scan. As I noted earlier, Avast! or Avira Anti-Virus are the best free versions that I am aware of.
4. Quarantine any entries that the virus scan has found to be a threat. This will make the files inactive. Follow up on any recommendations that your anti-virus scanner has.
5. If you still run into problems, it could mean that you have become a victim of browser hijacking. Malware will sometimes change the settings on your browser which will allow more malicious software to be installed on your computer without you being aware. The best way to deal with this is to download a program called HijackThis at http://free.antivirus.com/hijackthis.
6. HijackThis generates a log file that lists common locations where browser hijacking activity can occur. It can be confusing for a novice to understand, so users usually post their logs onto forums for assistance in ending their malware problem once and for all. A good forum to post your log at is http://forums.majorgeeks.com. Be sure to be kind when creating a post about your HijackThis log, and be prepared to follow their directions. You will be asked to keep posting updated logs as you complete their steps to see if the malware is responding to the forced removal. When they finally see that your log looks clean, they will notify you on the forum and you should be ready to surf the web.
Home Computer User Survey 2010, DaVaSec – Total Digital World Security.