Spyware” s software that is installed on your computer, usually without consent. It can display advertisements, collect data about your surfing habits, and, in extreme cases, collect login information and credit card numbers. Most of the time, spyware slips into your computer when you download a free program, but it can also invade when you visit disreputable sites. It’s nasty, sneaky stuff. So how do you protect your PC or Mac computer from spyware, malware and the identity theft or viruses and Trojans it potentially exposes you to?
First, if your machine has been infected, you’ll need to clean it up. If you’re seeing a lot of random pop-up ads—even when your browser is closed—or your browser is displaying a toolbar you never installed, spyware may be at the root of the problem. If your computer is running slowly or is generally temperamental, that can also be a sign of spyware infestation. Download Spybot Search & Destroy, and/or Ad-Aware for free. Both programs are excellent spyware removal tools, and can help protect you against future invasion.
Here are some tips to help protect your computer from further spyware infestation:
Turn on Windows’ automatic updates – If you own a machine that runs on Windows, it’s vitally important that you keep Windows up-to-date. Microsoft frequently releases fixes and patches that makes it more difficult for viruses and spyware to slip through. If you’re running a newer version of Windows, automatic updates should already be turned on. If you have an older version of Windows, however, you may need to toggle automatic updates. Click your “Start” button, search for “Updates,” and click “Windows Update.” Click “Change Settings.” Make sure “Install updates automatically” is selected.
Only download software from reputable sites – The threat of spyware isn’t a reason to shun free downloads, but you should be careful where you download from. Tucows and Download.com are good freeware sites, though there are others that have a spyware-free guarantee. It’s never a bad idea to look for these guarantees before downloading.
Immunize against spyware – After running Spybot Search & Destroy, you can apply “Immunization” that helps protect your computer against future infestation. You should immunize your computer once a week. Close your browsers before doing so in order to apply protection as efficiently as possible.
If you use Firefox, install NoScript – NoScript is a FireFox add-on that doesn’t allow for scripts to be loaded without your permission. “Scripts” run in websites’ backgrounds and tell the site how to behave and react to user interaction. Not all scripts are bad: in fact, they’re typically a vital part of a website’s code. But scripts can also perform harmful processes without you knowing it. With NoScript, you can block or whitelist sites as you see fit. It can be a little bit troublesome to use at first, but once you’ve “trained” the program, it makes browsing much safer—and faster.
Run more than one spyware cleanser – Can’t decide whether to use Ad-Aware or Spybot: Search and Destroy? Why not use them both? One program often picks up offending software that the other may miss.
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