Viruses and Spyware (Malware) - cont'd.
What harm do they do?
They install spyware, which watches what you do, where you surf, what you click on -- and sometimes every key you hit. In the best case, this only slows down your machine, and sends you ads you don't particularly want.
Always, these pernicious programs will interfere with your online experience, making it difficult or preventing you from getting to the sites you want. Eventually they can stop you from getting online at all. They can not only "freeze" your computer, but they can even corrupt your hard drive so your computer will no longer boot (i.e., it just stops working completely.)
In an even worse case, your computer still works, you get online, but every keystroke is logged and sent to a thief (somewhere in Novosibersk or Kuala Lumpur!), who empties your bank account electronically, steals your identity, and wrecks your credit rating.
This is why these programs are often called "malware" or "scumware."
The following articles provide a good background about these malevolent "evildoers"! According to PC Magazine, the threats from these kinds of software have been only increasing.
... and anti-spyware software is often ineffective, according to Gregg Keizer (et al):
- Anti-Spyware Ineffective by Gregg Keizer, TechWeb 15 March 2005
- MessageLabs issues monthly reports on viruses, spam and spyware. Their latest research shows, virus threats are increasing at an unprecedented rate.
Please visit www.messagelabs.com for more detailed information.
What to do if you get overwhelmed by spyware, and you would like to solve the problem on your own:
Checklist for Tuning Up Your PC (by Gene Emery, published in Reuters, December 4, 2004
Stripping Adware/Spyware from PC Can Be Tricky (by Gene Emery, published in Reuters, February 7, 2004
- Terminating Spyware With Extreme Prejudice (by Rachel Dodes, published in The New York Times, December 30, 2004)
3 Critical Ways to Fight Spyware
- Use Windows Automatic Updates. Keep your
Operating System current.
Automatically download and install all the latest protection and security from Microsoft. The safest Operating Systems are the ones Microsoft currently supports. Windows 95 and Windows 98 systems, for example, are much harder to keep safe than XP.
- Practice safe-surfing.
Stay away from X-rated sites; don't download any freebies (ESPECIALLY from X-rated sites); don't download anything from anyone you don't know -- and be careful with attachments even from people you trust. (They may be unsuspecting "carriers".) Avoid free music-sharing software. They make your computer part of their virtual network -- thereby exposing your hard drive and data to anyone and everyone who installs the same software. Most important to avoid: Kazaa.
- Use anti-spyware programs.
Keep your software current by downloading all available updates - and periodically scan your computer for spyware.
- Use Firewalls.
At the very least, make sure to employ Windows' built-in firewall protection. Routers supply an additional (hardware) layer of firewall protection. There are additional firewall packages available, some of them free. Also be sure to protect your wireless network with security features. And change your computer's workgroup name. XP Home defaults to "MSHOME." We strongly recommend you change this -- especially if you connect to non-encrypted wireless networks when you travel.
... even the best anti-spyware software, alone, cannot guarantee your computer remains spyware-free. However, we offer a unique service which can insure that even if you should mistakenly load malware to your hard drive, you will not incur expenses removing it, and will not find yourself doing this: