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What is spyware?

Viruses were once the largest threat to online security but spyware is taking over. Know your enemy and you will be well prepared to fight against it.
Read on for an explanation of the various types of spyware out there and what you can do about it.

Cookies
Cookies are used by many websites. In fact, some websites could not function without them. Cookies are used to store information at the browser end. This information could be something as simple and innocent as your User ID on that site, or it can be used to potentially store a range of information such as, any data you have typed in, or which pages you have been to on the site. There is also something called a "third party cookie" which is often presented via advertisements on sites that you visit. These cookies are sometimes called "tracking cookies" and provide the means for advertising companies and the like, to gather information about any site you visit, that shows an advertisement from the same company. Thus giving them a profile of some of your browsing habits. Many people consider this to be an invasion of privacy. You can filter out most of these third party cookies by changing settings in your browser.
For how to do this go here

Adware
Adware is software that displays advertising while you use it, for example, an advertising supporting browser. Adware monitors computer usage for marketing purposes and/or delivers unsolicited advertising content, and may track the sites you visit. Legitimate adware will inform the user of the statistics being gathered from their use of the computer. Some adware does not inform the user of any, or the full extent of, its information gathering and so may fall into the category of spyware.

Spyware
Spyware is software that is installed without your knowledge or consent and which takes partial control of a computer for the benefit of a third party. Spyware may be presented as adware, or be installed completely unknown to the user. Spyware can simply report back statistics on the use of your computer, or at it's worst, collect and send on information about any of your details, including credit card and bank details.

Keyloggers
Software that captures keystrokes and reports back to a third party. Keyloggers are often used to steal passwords and credit card details.

Diallers
Software that causes a PC to use the modem to dial phone numbers. Often used to run up high phone bills, or to transmit data collected by keyloggers or trojans.

Browser Hijacker
A program that takes over the user's control of a Web browser. Will often cause the browser home page to be reset to something other than the user's choice of homepage.

What to look for
Look for anything out of the ordinary, anything that doesn't seem quite right. Check for changes to your browser, including new links or icons, or a new homepage. Monitor your computer speed as sometimes an accumulation of such things as spyware can slow the PC down. Watch out for web-based ads, especially those that look like Windows alerts, that urge you to click on a button to run a check. Don't use these "tools" to run what you think may be a scan - use your own antispyware.

Windows, Updates and Firewalls
Keep Windows up to date by running updates automatically or at least regularly, and turning on the Firewall. If you run a different browser and email client, such as Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird, still keep them up to date with patches. There are also many other personal firewall programs available, but Windows XP (with Service Pack 2) has quite a good firewall.

Anti-spyware
Anti-spyware software is very necessary now as the threats from all types of malware increase. Whereas it is recommended that only one antivirus program be run on a PC, as they tend to conflict with each other, with anti-spyware the opposite is true. We recommend using multiple anti-spyware programs to ensure the best possible chance of identifying different types of spyware which may infiltrate the PC. At this point in time, we would recommend installing two FREE programs which appear to give an overlap of protection for many of the different sources of spyware.
They are: Ad-Aware www.lavasoftusa.com, Spybot Search & Destroy www.safer-networking.org Click for help with installing software.

Very important!
To be effective, any software installed to combat against spyware and viruses must be updated on a regular basis. If you are connected via ADSL (Broadband) have your updates and scans scheduled to run automatically. If you connect via modem, ensure you make a time every week to update your anti-spyware software and run your scans after updating. This may seem time consuming but the consequences of being unprotected can range from being annoying little "quirks" or unexplainable events, to being quite catastrophic as in fraud, loss of data or other major events.

Or do you think you may have a virus? Go Here

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