We are on Step 4 – Protecting your computer – and we will deal with such tantalizing topics like spyware, adware, hijackers, toolbars, and dialers. We have a word for these things – it is malware.
First a brief description of the above mentioned malware.
Spyware - Software that sends information about your Web surfing habits to its Web site. Spyware is often installed without the user’s knowledge or explicit permission in combination with a free download.
Adware - a slightly less malicious form of Spyware which usually displays unwanted pop-up advertisements.
Hijackers - Homepage hijack is a term describing one's homepage being changed without one's will and despite attempts to change it back, it's some strange website.
Toolbars - Toolbars are applications installed into a user's Internet browser. Under most circumstances Toolbars are not hidden from plain view. Toolbars are often installed to augment the capabilities of a Internet browsing software. Toolbars are offered by many legitimate companies for harmless reasons; often allowing easier or faster access to content. This may take the form of offering such things as a search box, or perhaps buttons allowing access to oft-visited websites. Toolbars can however be used to cause undesired browser behavior. Some Toolbars work with Adware (see description for Adware above.) Still others, like BHOs, may re-direct search results, or send personally identifying data or user browsing habits to a third party.
Dialers - A dialer is a type of software used by pornographic vendors. Once dialer software is downloaded the user is disconnected from their modem's usual Internet service provider and another phone number and the user is billed. While dialers do not spy on users they are malevolent in nature because they can cause huge financial harm to the victim.
Malware - "Malware" is short for 'malicious software' and is usually used as a catch-all term to refer to any software which causes damage to a single computer, server, or computer network.
You can read more about malware here.
So, how do you get this malicious software installed on your computer? You get it primarily by clicking on ads – banner ads, pop-up ads, and enticing ads telling you that you just won a million dollars. You are unlikely to get malicious software if you are at a reputable site and click on an ad – like CNN or WCCO. But if you are randomly surfing and you are at a site you are not familiar with, DO NOT click on any ads. The same goes for email – do not click on any links in an email unless you are positive it is a legitimate link.
You can also install malicious software sometimes by downloading and installing shareware or freeware software. Do not download any freeware unless you are sure it is reputable. Check it out before you download it.
OK – you are saying, “Won’t my antivirus software take care of these malware programs?”
In a word, NO! Antivirus protection has largely ignored the types of malware mentioned above. You need to attack malware with a different set of tools. And there are many FREE and low cost tools. As you look at these various anti-malware programs, keep in mind that one program is not necessarily better than another. They are all different and what one will do, another may not be able to do – and vice versa. So you may want to consider using several of these tools to help keep your computer clean of malware.
Windows Defender – Microsoft has there own FREE program that will help protect your computer from a variety of malware. It is excellent software and it provides “Real-Time Protection,” a monitoring system that works quietly in the background. Go to the Microsoft website and read more about it and download it here.
SpywareBlaster – This FREE program that does not run in the background. You simply click on it once a week or so and it will scan your computer and clean up any malware you have contracted.
2 venerable FREE programs have been around for a long time still do an effective job in keeping or ridding your computer from malware. They are:
SpyBot S&D (Search and Destroy)
WinPatrol – There is a FREE version of this program and a commercial version (around 30 bucks) which offers even more options and protection. Again, this is an excellent program. If you want to get a bit more protection, including protection for your startup items tray (the lower right hand corner of your screen), it’s probably worth the 30 bucks.
One last program that is not really a malware fighter in the strict sense of the word, but it is a very cool program – and it is FREE,
StartupMonitor. This program does what was mentioned above – protects your system tray from have needless startup files from being installed. It’s neat – I wish I’d had it before I installed my printing software, my Reader software, my QuickTime software – and a ton of other stuff I have installed that automatically installed the startup icon in the system tray. Read more about it here.
One last thing – most of the programs mentioned above require you to run the program periodically – every week of more often if you wish, to scan your computer for malware. It doesn’t take long to scan your computer and it will help your computer stay protect from malicious software.
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