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Spyware & Adware

Spyware and adware are relatively new threats, but one of the most dangerous we have seen.  The motivations behind spyware and adware are to profit from you either through legal or illegal means but almost always deceptive. 

Spyware and adware almost always collect information about you and send it back to the creators of the spyware.  The methods used to collect information can get scary.  Keyboard logging, web form logging, and system scanning are just a few of the methods used to collect information. 

If you are still using Internet Explorer, AOL's browser or any other that came with your internet service, you are extremely vulnerable to spyware attacks.  The best solution is to switch to a different browser.  We highly recommend Firefox with the Google toolbar, because it is much safer and faster than Internet Explorer.  Firefox has a track record of fixing security flaws in less than a week from announcement.  While, Microsoft patches Internet Explorer quite regularly, there almost always remains known vulnerabilities that are not patched.  This is because of Internet Explorers close integration with the operating system and other applications.

 

The simplest form of spyware collects information about what you use your computer for and which websites you visit in order to target pop-up or pop-over ads to you.  The sources of these types of spyware are numerous.  Bells and whistles type programs such as screen savers, search bars, and weather monitors are common covers for this type of spyware.   Some of the more popular applications that include spyware are DivX and Kazaa.   Their development is paid for by the ads they deliver.  If you want these types of applications, it is highly recommended to pay for the no ad supported versions. 

Two industries that are the biggest sources of revenue behind producing Spyware are pornography and the Russian mafia.  They account for over half of this nasty software. 

If you do anything online such as internet banking or shopping, you are at a very high risk if you are not protecting yourself against spyware.  It is estimated that over 92% of home computers are infected with some sort of spyware.  It is not unusual for an unprotected computer to have over 100 forms of spyware on them.  Simply put, if you connect to the internet and do not run an anti-spyware application you have spyware. 

Unlike antivirus vendors, anti-spyware vendors do not share information.  This leaves big gaps in almost every anti-spyware application, and makes controlling spyware even more difficult, but there are still good solutions.

Over 90% of all spyware gets on a computer by exploiting security holes in Internet Explorer (IE).  At the time of this writing there were over 40 know holes in IE without patches available from Microsoft.  A great first step is to switch to Mozilla Firefox.  (http://www.mozilla.com)  This is the descendant of Netscape, and is now a world class browser that has made a leap ahead of Internet Explorer in features and speed. 

Two very good free anti-spyware applications are:

Spybot Search & Destroy:

http://www.safer-networking.org

Adaware Personal SE:

http://www.lavasoftusa.com

 

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