Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stop Spyware with Desktop Security Software

What is Spyware?

When you hear the word spy, do you picture a cloaked figure lurking in shadows watching your every move, gathering information without your knowledge? Well that's exactly what spyware gathers personal information without your knowledge or consent. It's a software data collection program that can track your screenshots, keystrokes, personal email addresses, credentials, internet usage habits, financial information, and other personal information. Once your data is collected, it is used or sold to others, for spam, marketing, identity theft, or financial crimes.

Spyware is a type of malware (malicious software), a parasite. It's a program that covertly installs itself on your computer, and then proceeds to annoy you with pop-up ads and/or steals your personal information. The creators of spyware are very adept at their craft, and they make it very difficult, or impossible, to remove spyware. If your computer suddenly becomes very slow, you notice new icons on your desktop, or you become bombarded with pop-ups, you more than likely have spyware.

Avoiding spyware infection is your best defense. Most of the time, spyware infection comes from surfing on suspect websites, or downloading/installing pirated programs. Stay away from porn sites, P2P file sharing programs, and pirated versions of commercial software. If it looks shady, it probably is. Don't download email attachments from people you don't know. If it's from someone you know, check with them before you open any attachments, to verify they sent it to you. Even then, be cautious...their computer could be infected, and they're unwittingly passing on spyware to your computer.

If you think your computer has been exposed, run a spyware detection program. You should always do this frequently as part of your regular security routine. It should be part of your desktop security software program. If it isn't, you need a new software program.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Things you can do to protect your computer

Use security software

  • To keep your computer safe, and protect it against viruses and spyware, the most important thing you can do is install and maintain security software. Security software performs two main functions-- scanning for and removing viruses and spyware in files, and monitoring the operation of your computer for virus-like activity. Most software can perform both of these tasks. Keep your anti-virus software up to date.

  • Use a secure, supported operating system. Frequently update your software by applying the latest service packs and patches. For Windows, you can schedule Automatic Updates to automatically download and install available updates.
Avoid computer threats
  • Always choose strong passwords and passphrases, and keep them private. Never share your passwords or passphrases with anyone, even friends, family, or computer support personnel.

  • Do not download unfamiliar software off the Internet. Some will have useful functions, but most of this software contains spyware, which will damage your operating system installation, waste resources, and send your personal information back to the company that provides the software.

  • Do not click on random links: If you can't verify the link, don't click it. To avoid viruses spread through your email or instant messaging (IM), think twice before clicking on a link.

  • Beware of email or attachments from unknown people, or with a strange subject line. If someone you know sends you an attachment, contact the sender before opening the attachment to verify they sent it.
Back up data
  • Frequently back up important files and documents. Your data will be protected if you experience an operating system crash, hardware failure, or virus attack. Save files in multiple places (online backup system, USB flash drive, CD-R).