Spyware and Adware

Although it might sometimes be difficult to realize you have spyware installed on your personal computer, there are a few ways you can check for malicious spyware programs. First check your web browser for extra toolbars, changed homepage, new or reset favorites and bookmarks, changes to security settings (such as changes to the cookie allowance level, use of Active X, etc.), or pop-up ads that are not related to the site you are viewing. Also check your task bar to see if there are some new programs constantly running on your machine, eating up bandwidth.

Spyware usually contains adult material and are not displayed in the same fashion as normal ads are. You may also see advertisements when you’re not browsing the Web. Clicking hyperlinks which do not work (or take you somewhere you didn’t expect), a sluggish system, or your system taking longer to load the Windows desktop are all signs that your computer may be infected with spyware.

Spyware Programs

With the huge amount of spyware programs found on the Internet, comes an equally big amount of anti-spyware software packages. These programs first identify the spyware on your computer by scanning through your files, registry and cache memory. If they find spyware that matches their database (they use spyware databases, like anti-viruses use virus databases) they warn the user, then remove the malicious program.

Since spyware is installed like any other application on your system it will leave traces of itself in the system registry and in other places on your computer. Anti-spyware software will look for evidence of these files and delete them if found. It’s very important that you update your anti-spyware program as often as possible (as soon as the anti-spyware producers release an update or patch), in order to keep your spyware database up-to-date.

Adware

It is important to remember that not all companies who claim their software contains adware are really offering adware (adware is the legal “brother” of spyware, used only for organized and visible advertising). There is always a chance that adware is spyware in disguise so to speak, and that programs with embedded spyware may not state its existence at all.

Always stay on the side of caution and be sure to research privacy policies and licensing agreements that come with freeware. You should also become familiar with Internet lists of companies reported to be using spyware. Much like a firewall or anti-virus program, anti-spyware software is crucial to maintain optimal protection and security on your computer and network.