It is generally believed Spyware/Adware gets installed only if you visit the darker lanes of Internet. But in reality it turns out that even if you are browsing the Internet only for emails or go to your favourite portal, your PC is vulnerable to Spyware. This is in spite of your PC being protected with a decent Firewall and Antivirus installed.
Spywares are programs that install without our knowledge in your PC and monitor your activity, especially on what you are browsing. They frequently are used as Advertisement vehicle, throwing up pop-up ad windows when you are using your PC.
Apart from a Privacy stand point of monitoring what we browse, spywares also have a danger by exposing our PC to attacks. Since all the spywares are unwanted software they waste our processor, memory and other precious computing resources.
Just any other computer issue, Protection against spyware starts with education. The first place you should go is Microsoft’s Security page “What you should know about spyware”, then to PC Magazine’s page ’11 Signs of Spyware‘ and then finally go to ‘How to Avoid Spyware‘. After learning about Spyware, the next thing to do is to get a anti-spyware tool that can scan your machine and if found, remove all the spyware the installed. Most professional Anti-spyware software also give you a shield to protect your PC from future spyware’s invasion. Some of them even provide blocking of pop-ups and advertisements shown in webpages.
Today I tried out these two anti spyware software, the first is Webroot Spysweeper (Freeware version doesn’t provide updates) and the second is new Yahoo Toolbar with Anti-Spyware software. Spysweeper is by far the best among all Anti-Spyware software, it seems to have to have a comprehensive scan facility supported by constantly updated fingerprint database.
There are many more Spyware Tools available in the Internet: See List at SpyChecker & See List at PCWorld. You can also read PCMag review on many anti-spywares here. If you wish to read details about a particular Spyware – what it does, how to remove, etc. then go to Pest Patrol Research site, which is like encyclopedia of all known spywares. Pest Patrol is the same anti spyware technology that Yahoo uses in its Yahoo Toolbar.
Finally don’t throw up your hands in the fight against Spyware, help is on the way in the forms of Microsoft’s Windows XP Service Pack 2. SP2 has many security features that fortifies your internet connectivity, especially it improves default security of Internet Explorer. Many of the spyware gets installed as an ActiveX control or as a Browser Helper Object (BHO, the same technology that your friendly Google/Yahoo/MSN Toolbars uses). The changes in SP2 is likely to reduce the attack surface available significantly. After a long wait of nearly a year, Microsoft today announced that they have gone gold with the release of Service Pack 2.