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Digital Espionage : Spyware

Written By: Brandon Burke

Is your computer acting strangely? Do you try to go to a web site and your browser takes you somewhere else? Do you have a toolbar on your browser that you do not want, and have no idea how to get rid of? Got pop-ups? If so your computer may be infected with spyware.
Spyware is software that installs itself to your computer (usually without permission or with its permissions buried deep in an end-user agreement). It then proceeds to track your surfing habits and transmit the information to third parties. Spyware can also cause other irritating things to happen, such as browser redirection, system slow down, and pop-ups.
Fortunately there are several handy programs to get rid of spyware. The most notable are Spybot Search and Destroy, Lavasoft Ad-aware SE, and most recently Microsoft Antispyware. These programs usually do a very good job of removing spyware from an infected computer. However, it is a good idea to run a combination of these programs as one may catch something that another has missed.
There is a small catch in the spyware information industry. Typically people who are giving you information about spyware/malware are doing so in order to get you to purchase their own company’s product. Although their intentions may seem to be clear and fair, they may be misleading the consumer into a belief that their computer is more protected than it really is. As with all spyware/malware/antivirus products, the companies want you to believe that their product is the end-all, be-all solution to your problems. There are a few failures in that summation though: Not all products are created equally, not all products can catch ALL variants, and not all products are worthy of an install.
In the end, the answer is entirely in the hands of the end user to choose a product. My advice to the end-user is to not choose a product based on fear or lack of knowledge. True, the companies that are advertising to you know more about spyware/malware than you do… but they are also slanting their views to direct you towards their product over the competitor.
About the Author

Brandon Burke is the Director of Network Operations and Security for an outsource technical support company (GTC, Inc.) based solely in the United States. For more information on GTC visit http://www.ygtc.com . For more helpful tips visit http://www.ygtc.com/newsletter/ . [This article is free for use as long as this biography and any active links in the biography are maintained.]

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