ABC’s of Security: D – Defending Against Spyware

Unlike the loud and boisterous approach of many viruses, particularly older ones, the internet has become dominated by a new wave of subtle malware known as spyware. Sometimes also called “adware,” spyware focuses on insidious encroachments against users’ comfort and privacy.  Common symptoms include the following: 

  • Endless pop-ups 
  • Unexpected web redirections 
  • Icons or toolbars added without consent 
  • Unexpected change in homepage or search engine 
  • Certain keys stop working, such as the tab key 
  • Random Windows errors 
  • Unexpected slowdowns 

To prevent spyware from infecting their computer, there are a few different steps users can take. First, and perhaps most importantly, practice healthy skepticism on the internet; don’t trust every piece of free software, don’t say “yes” to

unexpected questions, and don’t click on anything that seems “too good to be true.” Second, install a pop-up blocker or an ad-blocking extension, as this eliminates many spyware sources. Last, install a tool specifically for anti-spyware, and make sure it can coexist with any other anti-malware present on the computer. 

If spyware slips through one’s defenses, removing it is generally trivial. Begin by downloading Malwarebytes or other anti-spyware software on an uninfected pc, and transfer this onto a USB stick; then, plug that USB stick into the infected pc, and use that software to run a full scan. Then, check your list of recently installed programs, and uninstall anything you didn’t specifically intend to install. 

Author: Grey Ruessler , IT User Services