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When we last saw our Superhero…
At this point, you have a basic framework for how to identify/remove spyware from a PC. If you missed Part I you can access it below:
Using that information should be sufficient to fix most Spyware infestations. For those “stubborn” pieces of Spyware I plan on developing an advanced Spyware removal entry—but that is going to take a little time to assemble. So I thought it made some sense to give you some guidelines on how to avoid getting Spyware in the first place.
Doctor it hurts when I do that – So stop doing it !
I wish there was a pearl of wisdom I could give everyone as to how to avoid Spyware; I could say practice “safe computing” but that isn’t very helpful. So what I have is assembled the following list that you can use as a reference (and if I missed something – let me know so I can update this list)
The Easy Stuff
- Avoid Screen’s or Popup’s that look like they are trying to help you.
- “Alert! We have found Spyware on your computer” And then includes a question asking if you want them to help you remove it.
- Pop-ups for “special offers” for Spyware removal.
- Avoid installing Browser Toolbars.
- Only install software from known sources
- Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date.
- Download CCleaner
- You primary Windows account should not have Administrator Access
- Standard User
- Changing your Browser Security “settings”
One of the older spyware tricks you might see is a web page (or a pop up) that says something along the lines of either:
A common mistake people make is to answer screens that appear to be helping them. Often these pop-ups or pages say something along the lines of:
You should just assume trouble is around the corner—never answer yes or say OK to this unless you know and trust the source.
Once the panic has subsided from seeing this message, you should first try to close the window by clicking on the X button in the upper right hand corner. If that doesn’t work, you need to try something more advanced such as:
For those familiar with the Windows “Task Manager”, enabled by pressing the keys marked CTRL, ALT and DEL simultaneously, you are able to bring up a list of running Applications and Tasks. From here, you can select the problematic browser window to close it.
Another suggestion is to avoid/minimize the installation of browser toolbars. I am not a fan of toolbars (although I do have the Google toolbar) primarily because they take up a large amount of screen space. I most commonly see people getting into trouble when they download toolbars for coupon and/or gaming sites—so you should really think twice before installing them.
Advanced info: It should go without saying that toolbars from Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are spyware free. And if you do decide to download a toolbar, you should immediately run one of your Spyware tools to determine if you have been infected.
While it may be tempting to click on the file or link a friend sends you in an email, it could contain a virus, spyware, or both. If you do decide to run the file, I suggest you run your Spyware tools after to determine if you have been infected.
For reference, an example of a site that contains downloads that are Spyware free is:
As we have said previously, there is no one solution that prevents spyware from getting on your machine, but having multiple lines of “defense” isn’t going to hurt you. (Editor’s Note: never use more than one Anti-Virus software on a computer at one time).
Advanced info: Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may provide you with free Anti-virus software. If you don’t have Anti-virus software installed on your PC (or your subscription is about to expire) you should check with your ISP first.
There is a utility I recommend called CCleaner—while its not a “spyware” tool per-se—it’s a useful utility to have on your system to keep it running smoothly.
While you should always have your data files backed up before installing any software program or using software that “cleans” your computer, I have run this program successfully for years without incident.
The Harder stuff
Technical Warning: It’s hard not to avoid this level of detail—but it is useful/important
To be honest, you shouldn’t have to know this, but with Windows you do. For some background—in Windows, there are 2 types of user accounts (each of which defines how much “control” over the system that account has)—which fall into 2 broad categories:
If your account has Administrator access, that means your account has access to everything. This means when a piece of Spyware enters your machine, it has access to everything as wel—which allows it to do the most damage.
Advanced Info: While changing your account to “standard user” won’t stop you from getting Spyware, it usually helps to limit the scope of the Spyware attack. For a badly infected account you can sometimes log into a different account that has Administrator access to clean the machine.
The only drawback to be found when changing your account type, though this may vary based on the version of Windows being used, is that you may end up receiving numerous notifications from Windows, typically during software installations, which can become annoying at times.
Once again another technical topic. For Microsoft Internet Explorer, the default browser found in Windows, you have the ability to change the browser settings. This is important because Microsoft Explorer allows components called “activeX controls” to run from within the browser. Changing the settings will warn you about these controls before they run.
Advanced Info: Changing your Browser settings will cause more warning notifications to appear on the screen. This can be annoying for the casual user. However, using other Browsers (such as Firefox or Chrome) alleviates this problem as they don’t provide support for ActiveX controls.
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