It is generally believed Spyware/Adware gets installed only if you visit the darker lanes of the 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 on your PC and monitor your activity, especially on what you are browsing. They frequently are used as an Advertisement vehicle, throwing up pop-up ad windows when you are using your PC.
Apart from the Privacy standpoint of monitoring what we browse, spyware also has a danger by exposing our PC to attacks. Since all the spyware is 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 PC Magazine’s ‘How to Avoid Spyware’. After learning about Spyware, the next thing to do is to get an anti-spyware tool that can scan your machine and if found, remove all the spyware installed. Most professional Anti-spyware software also gives you a shield to protect your PC from future spyware invasion. Some of them even provide blocking of pop-ups and advertisements shown on web pages.
Today I tried out these two anti-spyware software, the first is Webroot Spysweeper (the Freeware version doesn’t provide updates) and the second is the new Yahoo Toolbar with Anti-Spyware software. Spysweeper is by far the best among all Anti-Spyware software, it seems to have a comprehensive scan facility supported by a constantly updated fingerprint database.
There are many more Spyware Tools available on the Internet: See the list at SpyChecker & See the list at PCWorld. You can also read PCMag reviews on many anti-spyware. If you wish to read details about a particular Spyware – what it does, how to remove it, etc. then go to the Pest Patrol Research site, which is like an encyclopedia of all known spyware. 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 form of Microsoft’s Windows XP Service Pack 2. SP2 has many security features that fortify your internet connectivity, especially because it improves the 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 are 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.