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Stopping Spyware

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Security Help
 
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Stopping Spyware

Spyware is basically a type of program that gathers information about you without your knowledge. This information may be distributed to many sources or just a single source.

Note that if a program alerts you that your personal information may be shared it is not “technically” spyware, but it can be considered “Adware”.

Spyware programs can be extremely annoying and can wreak havoc on your system. They can cause slow downs, lockups, and all sorts of other problems.

The bad news is there are hundreds of these types of programs out there. Some common spyware programs include: Hotbar, Comet Cursor, Xupiter, Gator, Offer Companion and BonziBuddy.

Before downloading any “free” program from the internet, be sure to read the licensing agreement. did you know that Increadimail is technically adware? How about RealOne Player—it puts”data mining” software on your system to “track preferences” and report back to the mothership. Even free CD games from a cereal box or fast food kid’s meal can put “adware” (often called “foistware”) on your system.

Now, what to do about it. There are two great programs out there: Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware . Spybot is very thorough, but it often lists files that aren’t spyware making it more likely that you accidentally delete something you need. Ad-Aware is the easiest to use and my personal favorite.

Download and install Ad-Aware from this location:
http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/

To download and install Spybot S & D go to this location:
http://download.com.com/3000-2144-10122137.html

The first time you run a scan with either program, don’t be surprised if you find a few hundred spyware/adware varmits hiding in your system. If so, once deleted your computer should start running alot faster. Run a scan along with your usual monthly maintenance routine.

Did you know that you can also prevent Spyware from getting on your system to begin with?

I’m talking about a free way to do it, at least with Internet Explorer. I tried to find Netscape and Opera methods, but didn’t find any.

Just head over to Tools / Internet Options then click the “Security” tab and the “Custom Level” button.

You’ll see a list of settings, the first of which is “ActiveX Controls and plug-ins”. Here you can specify what .dll files you will allow on your system.

Here’s a good setup:

“Download signed ActiveX controls” — Prompt. You will be asked before a website tries to put Gator, Comet Cursor, or other adware on your system.

“Download unsigned ActiveX controls” — Disable. These kind of .dll files don’t tell you who they’re from and are usually always spyware trying to sneak its way in.

“Initialize and script ActiveX controls not marked as safe” — DEFINATELY Disable. Duh! This catagory includes spyware, worms, and other online nasties. Keep ‘em out!

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Once done, click OK .

With just a few changes, your web browsing is a whole lot safer.

~ David

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