Dwight Watt Internet Article #115 6/27/2005

#115 Fighting Spyware Update (Watt Thoughts)

About a year ago I wrote in this column on a number of programs you could use to remove spyware or adware from your computer. I am going to use the term spyware to cover spyware and adware, others prefer the opposite.

Spyware or adware are programs that get installed on your computer that clog up your computer and reduce its efficiency. The programs are designed with two purposes in mind. The first is as advertisements to advertise whatever. Quite often the items that are being advertised most people are not interested in or do not want their children seeing. This includes body enhancement drugs, porn sites, cheap software (often pirated), "Canadian" drugs, etc. These ads will clog your computer by popping up continuously stopping you from doing your work or play on the computer efficiently. The second area is programs that actually spy on your computer. Often they include the ads also but they are going in your computer and looking for information about you and sending it to some location. They are looking for credit card numbers, social security numbers, usernames, passwords, etc that then allow someone getting the information to literally steal from you.

How do you get these programs on your computer? Often when downloading a program from a site that they are attached to. If you get programs to share music, movies etc you will often get them also. Going to an ad that turns out to not be scrupulous will also give them to you. If you have not turned off services that allow pop-ups on your machine will cause them also. No matter how hard you try you will probably still get them. Turn off the Messenger service (called Winpopup on Windows 9X).

Congress is working on laws to outlaw spyware, and some state legislatures are also. The problem is that we can outlaw all we want in the USA but the spyware and spam can originate anywhere in world and there is no political body that controls this. (And I would not want one, on a personal note). People obviously do buy this stuff or it would die a natural death from no business.

I suggest you use at least three programs to clean spyware off your machine. The first three I suggest are all free for personal use as I write this. The first two I would suggest are Adaware SE by Lavasoft and Spybot S & D. These both do an excellent job cleaning and work in different ways to find the spyware so I would suggest using both. Make sure you download the updated signature files each time they direct you to. The third one is Microsoft's Antispyware program. Microsoft has offered it free in the beta program thru July although I suspect they will start charging a minimal amount in August. It will automatically search your machine each night and monitors for spyware. I would still use the other two with it. The first two will work on Windows 9X, 2000, and XP, but Microsoft's will work only on Windows 2000 and XP.

I would also suggest two products that will not clean spyware off your machine but will help prevent it getting on your machine. They are both from javacoolsoftware.com (don't reverse the java and cool names or you will go to a adware site). These are both free but request donations like Spybot S&D. Spywareblaster will stop spyware from getting on your machine and needs to be updated regularly. Spyguard will prevent hijacks of your browser. If a program tries to change your default webpage you go to when you open your browser, Spyguard warns you and blocks the change if you recommend. There are several nasty spyware programs that do this, about:blank being most famous.

In addition there are commercial programs available that do a good job. If you are using Norton Anti-virus 2005, it will catch some spyware. Spysweeper and SpySubtract are good programs and you can actually download them for 30 days to try for free.

Now where to get the programs. I suggest going to www.download.com and you can do a search on any of these programs and download them. You will get a clean download and the screens are basically clear. Several other download sites are not as clear to me and I accidentally download wrong items sometimes.

Good luck in fighting spyware, and may your time be fun and productive. This is a changing world so I am sure this is not last time I will write on this, but I hope one day it will be like Y2K, a bump in the road and that it is basically behind us, but only occasionally rears it ugly head.


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