Why Spyware Sucks
Spyware (or adware) presents one of the biggest threats to online privacy today. Personal data or Web browsing patterns are collected from unsuspecting users and sent to advertising, marketing and research firms by way of small applications running in the background of Windows®. The data is used within the companies collecting the data or sold in statistical reports.
So how can these companies get away with it? One common strategy is packaging the spyware with another application the user chooses to download. A November, 2003 report conducted by the Center for Democracy and Technology had this to say about the legal ramifications of spyware:
“Though some spyware may violate communications and computer-trespass laws, most programs are protected by agreements buried in long, detailed disclosures that users click on when they download other programs. ”
Spyware is also the number one cause of system slowdowns because it uses up system resources such as memory (RAM) and hard drive space. Computer users that fail to control the problem are left with sluggish, error-prone machines that toil with all the spyware while major tasks play second fiddle.
Malware: Spyware's Even Shadier Cousin
Like a virus, malware is programmed to screw up your computer or screw you over, big time. The “mal" means malicious, and while adware is legit, software outfits producing malware may be committing theft or fraud. As an example, keyboard loggers record everything that is typed in order to extract banking information.
Web proxies (or anonymizers) such as LetMeBy.com or ProxySurf.org automatically block malicious scripts. The downside is a proxy may also prevent useful online scripts from working properly. It's an ideal solution for general browsing or visiting sites you don't trust.
You can avoid getting spyware, malware and viruses in the first place by minimizing the following software download scenarious:
Another option is to increase the security settings in your Web browser. If you use Internet Explorer, click Tools > Internet Options > Security tab, then move the slider to medium or high. Unfortunately this may block access to features that aren't really harmful. For most people the best course of action is to install a few good anti-spyware programs and run system scans regularly.
Currently, the top anti-spyware software applications are Windows Defender, Spybot Search and Destroy, Ad-Aware, Spyware Doctor and PestPatrol. Using just one of these programs is not enough. Andy Walker of CyberWalker.net suggests installing at least two. Window Defender and Spybot Search and Destroy work well together. Adding a third such as PestPatrol or Spyware Doctor pretty much guarantees protection from all spyware.
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