Spyware can send information about activity on your computer (e.g., Web sites visited) without your knowledge or explicit permission. Spyware is related to adware which pops up ads automatically while you are working on your computer. Spyware typically gets into your computer by secretly riding along with something else you download. If you're seeing a lot more pop-up ad windows or seeing pop-up windows warning you that your computer is infected and trying to sell you a solution, your computer may be infected with spyware or adware.
Spyware can dramatically slow down your computer and even cause it to malfunction. To protect against spyware and adware, you need to check for and remove any unwanted files that might be planted on your computer. You'll need a three-pronged strategy:
- Install software that will check for spyware and adware files that might be on your computer.
- Continue to use software to protect against future spyware or adware infections.
- Avoid using software that allows spyware or adware files to download to your computer.
Download and run free spyware removal softwareSeveral companies offer free versions of anti-spyware software you can download now to check for spyware and adware. It's a good idea to run it even if you aren't sure your computer is infected.
Get the best protection money can buySeveral companies offer reasonably priced commercial solutions that independent testing has shown to yield the best results at removing spyware.
Get help from the expertsIf your computer has been infected with spyware and you haven't been able to remove it yourself by running spyware removal software, consider additional help.
Avoid using software that is susceptible to spyware intrusionsMicrosoft Internet Explorer has been the primary target of spyware and adware exploiters. Try using an alternative free browser as an alternative. Most sites will work fine with alternative browsers, but some depend on the use of Internet Explorer.
Stop using Microsoft WindowsSo far only Microsoft Windows computers have been infected by spyware or adware files. Apple's Macintosh OS X, Linux and other operating systems have been free of spyware to date.
- Backing up files is always wise to do, but when you suspect that your computer might be infected with unwanted spyware or other files, it's an especially good idea to back up all important documents immediately to protect against data loss.
- Using an anti-spyware program that "stands guard" (like an anti-virus) program is the best way to prevent unwanted spyware or adware files from getting installed in the first place. Most commercial solutions offer this option.
- If you use your computer frequently online or share it with others and it contains data that is important to protect, then a commercial anti-spyware solution is well worth the investment to protect against possible loss of data or loss of your time combating infected files that have been downloaded to your computer.
- Another technique for researching the cause and meaning of mysterious error dialog messages is to type the error string into Google and see what other users have written about the problem. This might help you determine if the error is caused by spyware or another program.