stuff is great! I am always interested in
anything that is of value and costs me nothing.
But, as your mother probably told you many,
many times before, there is precious little
in life that doesn’t come with a price tag.
internet users know at least something about
the dangers of computer viruses. But, there
exists an even greater menace lurking on the
net you may be unaware of. The menace takes
many forms and is collectively know as “adware,”
“spyware” and “malware.”
small programs “phone home” the information
they gather from your hard drive. The information
they send ranges from the Web sites you visit
to the credit card and banking information
stored in your financial software. Some programs
even record the passwords and usernames you
first sign that you are under attack is when
you notice your computer is working more slowly
and it seems to be “churning” constantly.
Another sign is when Internet ad pop-ups appear
even when you do not have a Web browser open.
how do these programs wind up on your computer?
It’s simple. They usually are installed on
your computer without your knowledge. Many
of these programs are attached to free “helper”
applications. Examples of these are pop-up
blockers, MS Internet Explorer toolbars, and
one of my favorites, Bonzi Buddy.
do you know if a program contains one of these
little creatures? You don’t. Actually, that
is not entirely true; many companies will
mention that additional software comes with
the application which helps them pay for their
costs. This information is usually tucked
away in the “Terms and Conditions” message
you must agree to before installing the software.
Personally, I don’t know many people (ok,
I know no one) who reads every word of those
agreements every time before they click the
“I Agree” button. We’re only human, right?
protect yourself, don’t download, much less
install, ANYTHING unless you have absolute
confidence and trust in the company that makes
and distributes it.
you aren’t familiar with the company, do some
research. Some good sources of information
are sites like ZDNet.com, Doxdesk.com, PCMag.com,
SpyWareInfo.com, and of course, this one!
your friends and family work in the computer
security business, they are not good sources
of information and should not be trusted.
now, you may be asking, “How do I get rid
of it?” Uninstalling the program rarely works.
Even if a uninstall feature actually exits,
it almost never uninstalls everything.
Yet there is hope! Programs exist that find
and remove adware, spyware, and malware. And
the better news? Most of them are free! (Yes,
I know what I wrote in the first paragraph,
but this is the good free.) Unfortunately,
some of the free ones actually remove files
installed by other applications only to install
some of their own.
product I recommend for most users is Ad-aware
by Lavasoft. It is very easy to use and you
can safely remove all of the files it finds.
Lavasoft offers a free version for non-commercial
use. Make sure to download the updates every
time you use the software. Run the program
at least once a month even if you are positive
that you don’t need it. Always run the program
when your computer starts acting quirky. You
may be very surprised at what it finds.
trustworthy applications are Spybot Search
& Destroy, CWShredder and HijackThis.
They are geared for computer savvy users and
occasionally recommend removing things that
you really don’t want to remove. Read the
instructions and pay very close attention
to the alerts if you decide to use one of
your private information private is a challenge.
Cautious and vigilant computer users lessen
their exposure to the pirates in the world.
Pirbhai, CTO of Allyson-Kas, Inc., can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856-812-0623.
She is a frequent contributor on computing
topics. Visit www.allyson-kas.com for more