Everyone who uses the Internet is exposed to a constant barrage of threats from spyware and adware. Unless we arm ourselves with information, these threats can make our computers and the information stored on them extremely vulnerable. After all, we need to enlighten ourselves about the threats and how, without our knowledge, spyware gets downloaded onto our PCs. The next precaution is installing a reputable, reliable spyware blocker that removes downloaded spyware and prevents future spyware downloads. The final step in this process is to be enlightened and wary. Be aware of the origin of the downloads ‘before’ you even consider downloading and installing them. Downloading anything from an unknown source is unwise, and so is sharing files.
Let’s begin by discussing how important knowledge is. In the beginning, spyware started out harmlessly enough. Spyware was originally intended to give advertisers a more complete description of their customers – their ‘persona’. Advertising is much more effective when the company understands who it’s ‘targeting’. For example, they can deliver custom ads if they know you enjoy sports, music, technology, etc.
Unfortunately, no one is governing the data advertisers collect about you. The line between harmless and malicious is easy and quick to cross. Once crossed, the data can be used against you in ways that can be extremely harmful. Bank account and credit card information, stock trading accounts and other highly private information are all considered to be “fair game” by a malicious programmer.
There is one form of malware called keylogging that is extremely dangerous. Keyloggers get downloaded to our PC’s without our knowledge. Once installed, it records and transmits all of our key strokes, including credit card numbers, passwords and even our social security numbers – they’re all easy for identity thieves to decipher.
So, how do these awful malicious programs get downloaded onto your computer in the first place? People frequently become victims of malware when downloading Internet-based applications. Downloaded software utilities, along with shared music, videos and other files can all include malicious software. For example, spyware and adware can be covertly bundled into downloaded freeware programs.
It helps to know the symptoms a computer can exhibit if it’s been invaded by adware, because the sooner you recognize the problem, the sooner and better you’ll be able to disinfect your computer. Adware is usually easy to detect because annoying ads start popping up out of nowhere. You might initially think that these ads belong to the website that you’re visiting, but after a while it will become obvious that the ads aren’t related to the websites and that you’ll need to take action to eliminate the adware and spyware.
A degradation of your computer’s performance can also indicate the presence of spyware. A spyware infiltration can cause your computer to slow down and become downright sluggish. Your web browser might take a long time to open a site or navigate from one site to another. The performance hit is caused by spyware and its malicious activities. Your computer slows down whenever the spyware is collecting and transmitting your precious data.
Anti-spyware software itself is often downloaded, and like any other download, the anti-spyware software or its downloader utility could disguise even more spyware being installed onto your computer. It’s ironic, but true. You’ll need to do some research and find a reputable, well-known anti-spyware/anti-adware program that’s able to disinfect your system and defend your computer against additional malicious downloads. Take a look at product reviews, forums, blogs and other sources of information. Personally, I stay with the big guys like McAfee, Symantec/Norton and Spyware Doctor. These companies have been in business for a long time, their software has won awards, they’ve been reviewed by plenty of customers and they guarantee their products and services.
In addition to the company’s reputation, find out how often it updates its anti-spyware/anti-adware product and how often its software scans your entire computer. Finally, make sure the anti-spyware/anti-adware product you use scans all downloads and emails before they touch your computer. The ideal product will eliminate all threats from your system, it will scan your computer weekly, it will scan all incoming emails and downloads, it will update itself frequently to keep up with the latest scams and it will be produced by a reputable provider.
Remember, the third and final precaution is being smart and wary. Whenever you press the “download” button you should know exactly what you’ll be getting.