What is spyware? How do I know if I have some on my computer? How do I get rid of it?
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.
If you want to make sure that a program is safe before you download or install, head over to Spychecker  and type in the name. You will find a link to the company’s privacy statement so you can read exactly what information will be collected and how it will be used before you download. I was surprised to find some familiar names.
Now, what to do about it. There are two great programs out there: Ad-Aware  . Spybot is very thorough, but it often lists files that aren’t spyware making it more likely that you accidentally delete something. Ad-Aware is the easiest to use and my personal favorite.
Download and install Ad-Aware from this location:
Once youâ€™ve installed it, open the program up and click “Scan Now”. You can use default scanning options, select just the drives and folders you want to scan, or perform a quick system check. On your left pane the program gives you a list of different places to scan. Then click the â€œNextâ€ button.
The program will scan your entire system. Just sit back and relax and let it do its job.
Once the program has finished, click the ” Next” button and it will present you with a list of programs that it has discovered. You can double click to find out what the file is and the risk level. Check the boxes you want to remove, then click “Next” for Ad-Aware to remove those components.
To download and install Spybot S & D go to this location:
Once installed, open the program and hit the “Search and Destroy” button, then “Check for Problems”. Sit back and do your carpal-tunnel exercises while waiting for the scan to complete.
As I mentioned earlier, Spybot likes to include things on the list that aren’t spyware like updaters for programs and even Microsoft’s Media Player! The best thing to do before checking something off is to double click for a description of the program.
Check off only the malicious ones you want deleted, then click “Fix selected problems” to remove the spyware.
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.