Dealing with spyware

For those of you who normally might skip my “technical” posts, let me recommend that you read through this one, because of its subject — spyware, which is a scourge that affects us all.

The first question many people have is “What is spyware?” Just follow that link for an explanation. There’s no use in my reinventing the wheel by redefining it here.

In my role as a tech support Product Specialist at ClientLogic for BellSouth’s FastAccess ADSL service, an increasing number of the calls I handle relate to spyware. Once enough of it has accumulated on someone’s computer, they may reach the point that they can get connected to the Internet but can’t pull web pages. They get the error message, “Page cannot be displayed” for any web page they try to visit. Our customers typically call us telling us that their Internet service isn’t working and we try to help them resolve the issue.

One solution that we recommend is that once they get back on the Internet and are able to pull web pages again, they get Spybot Search & Destroy version 1.3. So the time to get this program is BEFORE you reach the point that spyware damages your ability to surf.

If you’ll click on this link, that will take you to a page where you too can download it. Save it to either your desktop or to a folder where you’ll be able to find it after the download is complete, and then run the downloaded program to install Spybot S&D on your computer. Once it is installed, click on the button to “update” it.

The reason for updating it is so that the latest spyware definition files can be obtained from its home website. Very much like Anti-virus programs, Spybot’s programmers are constantly updating their list of newly created spyware programs and these updated lists are what you are downloading when you update the software. Once the latest updates are identified, you’ll need to select each of them (put a check in the box beside them) and select the option to “download the updates.” That will bring your copy of Spybot S&D up to date.

The next task is to have the program scan your computer for any spyware that may already be on it. So you should select “Scan for problems.” There are more than 21,000 such problematic programs (at last count) for which Spybot S&D searches. This search will require a few minutes, depending upon the speed of your computer. When the scan is complete, the program will, in all likelihood, have identified anywhere from a few to a lot of such spyware and it will present you with a list of them.

At this point you should click on the option to “fix the problems” and wait while the program removes these nasties from your system. It might be wise, after this process is completed, to re-run the scan to see if everything has been removed or whether new spyware is found that is still there. If more spyware is found, allow the program to remove it too.

Once you’ve removed the spyware from your system, click on the “Immunize” button in the left-hand column. This will cause Spybot S&D to prevent these programs from being installed on your system in the future.

The final thing you can do is set Spybot S&D to run at some scheduled interval that you define. It’s a good idea to set it to run in the middle of the night when you are not likely to be using your system. You can do that by clicking on the Settings button toward the bottom of the left-hand column and then set up a schedule of when you want it to run.

Here’s a picture that illustrates.

Spybot S&D scheduler window. Click on the picture for a larger image. Posted by Hello

Using Spyware detection, removal and immunization is as important as using Anti-Virus software, and increasingly spyware is becoming more of a problem than viruses.

This is one of those cases where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I hope you’ll take this precaution and arm yourself with the tools needed to maintain your connection to the Internet, because despite the irritations like spyware and viruses, the Internet provides an important link to vast amounts of information as well as to each other.

Happy and safe computing!


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