How to Stop Spyware from Infecting your System

Written By: Ray Bonneau

Spyware is becoming more and more of a problem. When I visit a cusomters site and inspect the computers I always find some kind of spyware on the system. I know that many people have been unaware of spyware, but hopefully now that the word is spreading that people will be more aware of the problem and setup a good defense. I get a get calls or questions to the effect of “Why is my computer running so slow? I just bought the computer recently”. Most of the time this is because of spyware. Spyware programs will load on boot up and take up your computer memory that will reduce your performance. I will go over my typical setup to prevent and battle spyware. This system works if all of the current spyware has been removed properly. I will leave that to another article.

Spyware is loaded on a computer over the Internet without the user knowing. It is loaded in the background through holes in a user’s computer setup. Internet Explorer has been very vulnerable to spyware and is a major reason why so many people are getting infected. Spyware ranges from more benign programs to more extreme programs that will hijack your browser’s startup page or cause pop ups to occur relentlessly. The following is the defense system that I use, and I strongly suggest that you use.

1. Download and install all of the latest updates to your software. Once a week you should be checking for software updates to install. This will help protect you against the latest threats.

2. Use a firewall. Many people have a direct connection the Internet and do not setup and run a personal firewall. This can potentially be very dangerous. Firewalls should be running for protection against many potential problems including hackers, spyware, and data protection. Windows XP has a built in firewall. Make sure you have updated your system to Service Pack 2 (SP2) if you have Windows XP. Microsoft has added many security features and fixed bugs in this update and should be updated as soon as possible.

Sygate Personal Firewall is a free personal edition firewall that works pretty well. You can download it at http://smb.sygate.com/products/spf_standard.htm

3. Install and run Spybot Search & Destroy. Spybot is a great spyware detection and removal tool. This is a free tool that should be run often to make sure spyware has not been loaded onto your system. Every time that Spybot is used make sure that all of the latest updates are downloaded first. Updating to the latest Spybot files will allow detection and removal of the latest spyware programs. You can download Spybot at http://www.safer-networking.org.

4. Install and run Adaware. Adaware is another free spyware/adware detection and removal tool. I’ve found that using just one spyware detection tool is not enough. Using these two tools will detect and remove a majority of the spyware programs on your machine. This tool should be run in conjunction with Spybot. Again, make sure the latest updates are downloaded and installed each time Adaware is used. Download it at http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/.

5. Use an Anti-virus program. Viruses can cause a lot of headaches for people. Since Viruses have been well publicized, I have noticed many people have an anti-virus program installed. However, people never update to the latest definition file. This is a must because the latest definition file will provide defenses against the latest viruses. If you do not update this file, you are only protecting yourself against the viruses that are known to the date of the definition file. Either setup your anti-virus program to automatically update the definition file every week, or make sure that you manually update the file every week.

6. Use Mozilla Firefox 1.0 browser. Change your browser to the recently released free Firefox browser. Internet Explorer has many holes that spyware programs target and exploit. Microsoft has tried to keep up and release updates to fix the problems, but it seems like after every fix a new vulnerability is discovered. To protect your system, just download Firefox and start to use it as your default browser. Firefox is setup very similar to Internet Explorer; so learning how to use the new browser will not be a problem. You can configure the browser to block pop-ups. This is a nice feature to battle those annoying pop-up windows. It also has a great tab feature. This allows you to open multiple pages inside one browser window. Visit http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/ to download the latest version.

The above spyware prevention system should help your computer or network stay protected and running at optimal performance. If you have never run a spyware program such as Spybot or Adaware I think you will be amazed at what is detected on your system. Sometimes I find over 100 suspect spyware programs installed on computers. No wonder your system is running slow.

About the Author

Ray Bonneau owns an on site computer repair, information technology solutions company in the Dallas, TX area. They perform on site repairs for residential and small businesses; focusing mainly on providing IT support for small businesses. Visit http://www.dallascomputersolutions.com for more information or to sign up for a monthly newsletter. Ray can also be reached at ray@dallascomputersolutions.com

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