Security Information

Is Spyware Watching You?


Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from afriend 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, butI felt secure since I carry anti-virus software and afirewall (both by Norton).

At his suggestion - and to my surprise - I ran a programcalled "Spy Sweeper" and found a veritable minefield ofdangerous and harmful programs lurking on my computer.

"Spyware" is software that gets onto your computer andliterally "spies" on your activities.

The spying can range from relatively harmless use ofcookies tracking you across multiple websites... toextremely dangerous "keystroke loggers" which recordpasswords, credit cards, and other personal data. That datathen gets relayed to the person who put the software onyour computer.

Three primary types of spyware exist to complicate youronline life, including:

1. "cookies"
2. "adware"
3. malicious programs like "keystroke loggers"

Cookies represent mostly a danger of lost privacy.

In theory, someone could use a "cookie" to track you acrossmultiple sites, combine that data with several databases,and figure out a lot more information about you than wouldmake you comfortable.

"Adware" tracks more than just your movement across sites,it spies on your installed software and computer habits tothen serve up advertising, modify websites before you seethem, and generally do things without your knowledge withthe intention of trying to get you to buy things.

"Keystroke loggers" and other malicious programs exist forone purpose: to cause personal mayhem and financial damage.

Spyware gets on your computer in one of several differentways.

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 whenyou open the email message.

Third, hackers find an open port on your computer and usethe "back door" to install basically anything they want.

And fourth, the more malicious types, like keystrokeloggers, can even get installed by someone with directphysical access to your computer such as an employer,suspicious spouse, business competitor, or someone whowants to know exactly what you're doing.

Now, suppose you carry an up-to-date anti-virus program anda firewall - shouldn't that represent potent 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 forthe tens-of-thousands of existing spyware programs alongwith the new ones appearing daily.

Check out "Spy Sweeper" from webroot.com - this is theprogram 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 thenuse it 2-3 times a week... not the best strategy, butI want to give you the "whole" picture.

I also got the following recommendations from numeroussubscribers about 2 programs to specifically help identifyand remove spyware from your system (PC):

1. "Ad Aware" from lavasoft.de
2. "Spybot Search & Destroy" from safer-networking.org

The overwhelmingly recommended firewall suggested by readerswas Zone Alarm Pro from Zone Labs=> http://www.ebookfire.com/zonealarm.html

The bottom line seems pretty simple (but lengthy) if youwant to protect yourself against this growing threat.

~ Keep your anti-virus program current
~ Install a firewall
~ Carefully screen software before installing it
~ Scan for specifically for spyware weekly
~ Stay current on this growing threat.

(c) Jim Edwards - All Rights reserved
http://www.thenetreporter.com

About the Author:

Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist (http://www.TheNetReporter.com) and is the author ofseveral best-selling ebooks, information products andsoftware programs.

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