Spyware, also refered to as scumware, malware, adware and by some other names that cannot be used in a family friendly article, is a plague on the internet today. When addressing this issue, two areas must be discussed, removal and prevention.REMOVAL:
If your computer has already been infested with spyware, you must first remove it before you can prevent future infestations. Depending upon the level of infection, the average user may be able to clean his own computer by the use of a few good tools. If these tools are unable to completely clean your system, you will most likely need to call in an expert. Be careful though, many so called "PC techs" are incompetent. Ask a few questions before engaging their services; Have you dealt much with spyware? Have you been successful removing it or do you often need to format the computer? Can you tell me up front how much I will be charged assuming a worse case scenario? You are looking for someone who has dealt quite a bit with spyware, don't be afraid to ask for references. Any tech that says that in any case they have had to resort to formatting a clients computer, should not be used. Spyware can be removed in even the worst of cases by a competent technician. The exception is, that in extremely bad cases it may be quicker to reinstall windows rather than clean up the problem particularly in cases where you have nothing on the computer that matters to you such as a used computer handed down or purchased. A good tech should be able to deal with any infestation in two hours or less. To identify for yourself if you have spyware and try to remove it if you do, there are a few good free tools available. You should first run Trend Micro's Housecall and delete any viruses and or spyware found on your system. Scumware often hides in trojan viruses and will be relaunched after cleaning if the virus is not first removed. After running Housecall, there are two cleaning programs to download. Spybot Search & Destroy and Lavasoft's Ad-Aware are both essential for this process. They are free. Beware of other spyware cleaners, there are many, many, out there that are, in fact, spyware themselves. Install each of these programs, be sure to check for updates and then run them. You will now know if spyware is present on your computer. If it is, remove it. After running both, reboot and run them again, if more spyware is found then you have advanced spyware which will require an expert cleaning. If you are in the Austin, TX area and need spyware or virus removal done by an expert, feel free to email me at mike (at) moishe.net, I will be happy to recommend an excelent service provider to you.PREVENTION:
Prevention efforts should be put in place on any new computer or after all scumware has been removed. The number one thing that I would recommend that you do is download Firefox and use it as your default browser. It is far less vulnerable to spyware than Internet Explorer. If you cannot or do not want to do this, use Spybot Search & Destroy's innoculation feature. Also, download Spyware Blaster, and after updating it, turn on all protection.
In the end, good luck. The current rampant infestation of scumware, malware, spyware and the like on the web has reached epic proportions and dealing with it can be a true test of patience.