Is ''Spyware'' Watching You?
Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from a friend
who told me he'd been the victim of a "spyware" attack that left
him shaking at his loss of privacy.
I listened to his horror story with a sympathetic ear, but I felt
secure since I'm running anti-virus software and a firewall (both by
At his suggestion - and to my surprise - I ran a program called
"Spy Sweeper" and found a veritable minefield of dangerous and
harmful programs lurking on my computer.
Spyware is software that gets onto your computer and literally
spies on your activities.
tracking you across multiple websites... to extremely dangerous
"keystroke loggers" which record passwords, credit cards, and
other personal data. That data then gets relayed to the person
who put the software on your computer.
Three primary types of spyware exist to complicate your online
Cookies represent mostly a danger of lost privacy.
- malicious programs like "keystroke loggers"
In theory, someone could use a cookie to track you across
multiple sites, combine that data with several databases, and
figure out a lot more information about you than would make you
Adware tracks more than just your movement across sites, it
spies on your installed software and computer habits to then
serve up advertising, modify websites before you see them, and
generally do things without your knowledge with the intention of
trying to get you to buy things.
Keystroke loggers and other malicious programs exist for one
purpose: to cause personal mayhem and financial damage.
Spyware gets on your computer in one of several different ways.
First, it rides along with software you download from the 'Net
and install on your system.
Second, they come as email attachments (much like viruses) and
automatically install themselves on your computer when you open
the email message.
Third, hackers find an open port on your computer and use the
"back door" to install basically anything they want.
And fourth, the more malicious types, like keystroke loggers, can
even get installed by someone with direct physical access to your
computer such as an employer, suspicious spouse, business
competitor, or someone who wants to know exactly what you're
Now, suppose you carry an up-to-date anti-virus program and a
firewall - shouldn't that represent adequate protection?
In a word: NO!
I can personally attest that even the most up-to-date anti- virus
programs and firewalls will not (repeat, WILL NOT) catch all the
spyware that can infest your computer.
You need a program that specifically scans your system for the
tens-of-thousands of existing spyware programs along with the new
ones appearing daily.
Check out "Spy Sweeper" from webroot.com - this is the program I
used to discover the spyware on my computer.
One thing I noticed, however, is that this program is a memory
hog, so once I scanned, I turned it off and then use it 2-3 times
a week... not the best strategy, but I want to give you the
I also got the following recommendations from numerous
subscribers about 2 programs to specifically help identify and
remove spyware from your system (PC):
The overwhelmingly recommended firewall suggested by readers was
Zone Alarm Pro from Zone Labs.
- Ad Aware
- Spybot Search & Destroy
The bottom line seems pretty simple (but lengthy) if you want to
protect yourself against this growing threat.
Keep your anti-virus program current
- Install a firewall
- Carefully screen software before installing it
- Scan specifically for spyware weekly
- Stay current on this growing threat.
. . .
Article by Jim Edwards - Copywrite 2004 - All rights reserved.
Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist
(http://www.TheNetReporter.com) and is the author of several
best-selling ebooks, information products and software programs.
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