You are proud of yourself. You purchased the most recent antivirus software and have kept it up-to-date with all the latest virus definitions. Your operating system is set up to automatically update and install any new security patches. Be careful what you download, and set your anti-virus software to scan files before they are saved to your hard disk.
Your computer suddenly feels slow. It takes a while to start, and it takes a long time for files to be saved or opened. The home page of your browser has changed but you don’t recall changing it. The system tray has a new icon that you think you noticed. However, it isn’t clear if this was the case. It is possible that you have a virus. However, a system scan will show it to be clean.
What could be the problem?
Spyware is a program that can be installed on your computer and cause problems with your computer’s performance. Spyware can monitor and control your computer’s use. Spyware can monitor and control your computer’s web browsing, redirect your browser to specific websites, pop-up ads or record keystrokes. This can lead to identity theft.
To protect yourself against spyware infection, you must learn how to recognize it and avoid it. Computer users need to take precautions against spyware infection and educate themselves on how to identify signs that their computer has been infected.
These are indicators of spyware infections:
- Pop-ups are unusually high
- Your browser may visit sites other than the one you have told it to.
- Your browser now has a new toolbar
- You’ll see new icons on your desktop and in the system tray
- The keys suddenly stop working
- The appearance of seemingly random error messages
- Computers boot slower than normal
- Computer slow to save files and start programs
There are steps that you can take to reduce the risk of spyware infections. These steps are:
Make sure your web browser and operating system are up-to-date. Spyware may exploit security vulnerabilities in these programs. Software companies offer free patches to fix these holes as soon as they are discovered. To automatically install and check for updates, activate the auto-update function in your browser and operating system. You can also check manually for updates, even if your system is set to auto-update.
Combine anti-spyware with anti-virus software. Even if it does detect spyware, it doesn’t usually do as good a job as standalone antispyware programs. You should have both anti-spyware and antivirus software installed. Make sure they check for updates and update their programs daily.
Avoid downloading free software. Free downloads can be fun. It’s important to know that free programs can infect your computer with spyware. Make sure your children know not to share your computer with others.
Be aware of what software you are installing before you do anything. The EULA (end-user license agreement) contains important information about the programs and their functions. Before installing any software, make sure you read the EULA. If a program does not have one, or is difficult to locate, consider whether your system could be infected.
Avoid downloading unapproved files. You could be vulnerable to downloading unwanted software that you don’t know about. You should ensure that your browser security settings allow you to detect such downloads. Internet Explorer should only be used at the “Medium” setting.
Do not click on popup links. Click red “X” to close popups. Spyware can be installed by clicking on pop-up windows (such as cancel buttons)
Set up a firewall. This will prevent outside access to your computer and alert you if spyware is being sent to unauthorised users.
Keep your data safe. Have important information on your computer. In the event that your computer crashes, make a backup copy of all data. This should be done often.
If you suspect that your computer is infected by spyware, stop using credit cards, bank accounts, passwords, usernames, or any other information that could compromise you. Make sure your security software is up-to-date and scan the entire system for viruses and spyware. Anything found to be malicious should be removed or quarantined.