Friday, February 14, 2014

How to recognize and avoid spyware


The term “spyware” doesn’t mean an undercover operative is watching you.  Spyware also known as “adware” refers to a type of software that sends you pop-up ads when installed on your computer.

Some versions of spyware track your websites and tracks exactly what keys you type.  This is used for malicious purposes.

Spyware will cause your computer to run slow and sluggish.  There are also other privacy indications to be aware of.

Spyware monitors your websites visited, and redirects your browser to choice websites.

Here are some tips and warning signs to look out for on your computer:
  • endless pop-up windows on your browsers
  • you are being redirected to web sites other than the one you typed into your browser
  • new, unexpected toolbars appear in your web browser that you can’t get rid of
  • new, unexpected icons appear in the task tray at the bottom of your screen
  • your browser’s home page has been respectively changed
  • the search engine your browser opens when you click “search” has been changed
  • certain keys fail to work in your browser (e.g., the tab key doesn’t work when you are moving to the next field within a form)
  • random Windows error messages begin to appear
  • your computer suddenly seems very slow when opening programs or processing tasks (saving files, etc.)



How can you prevent spyware from installing on your computer?

To avoid unintentionally installing it yourself, follow these good security practices:
  • Don’t click on links in the pop-up windows – Pop-up windows are often spyware, clicking on the window may install spyware software on your computer. To close the pop-up window, click on the “X” icon in the titlebar instead of a “close” link within the window.
  • Choose “no” when asked questions – Don’t trust unexpected dialog boxes asking whether you want to run a certain program or perform another type of task. Always select to close or “cancel,”  the dialog box by clicking the “X” icon in the titlebar.
  • Free downloadable software is not free – Websites offer customized toolbars and other features that appeal to users. Don’t download programs from sites you don’t trust. You should realize that you may be exposing your computer to spyware by downloading these programs.
  • Don’t follow email links claiming to offer anti-spyware software – Like email viruses, the links may serve the opposite purpose and actually install the spyware it claims to be eliminating.


Do you think you have spyware?  Here are steps to take to remove spyware from your computer.

  • First run a anti-virus scan on your computer – Some anti-virus software will grab and remove spyware from your computer.  It is a good idea to set your anti-virus software to run scans periodically.
  • Run a legitimate product specifically designed to remove spyware - Products will scan your computer for spyware and remove and destroy it.  Many popular products include Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware, Webroot’s SpySweeper, Microsoft’s Window Defender, and Spybot Search and Destroy.
  • Be sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software are compatible - An approach to installing the software is to ensure you don’t unintentionally introduce problems.

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Security Tip (ST04-016) Recognizing and Avoiding Spyware – US-CERT

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