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Spyware - Is Your Computer Safe?
by: Niall Roche
Spyware is the virtual plague of the new Millenium. You no longer have to receive emails with viruses in them or even click on dangerous links on websites. Simply surfing the web can now leave you wide open to the scourge of spyware. You may also hear spyware referred to as malware.

What is spyware?
Spyware is when a program is placed on your PC without your consent. The most common way for this to happen is when you install a separate application such as a file sharing program or free download utility on your computer. The program you install also places some "extra" programs on your PC. These extra programs perform tasks from recording what websites you visit to popping up ads on your screen. More worrying are the spyware programs that record everything you type on your keyboard. That's right. Your most private instant messages, emails and chat room discussions can easily be stored and transmitted without your approval. Scary stuff!

Are there different types of spyware?
There are many different classifications of spyware but the following are the most dangerous types:

The most common type of spyware. These are small programs which sit on your computer waiting for you to go online. Once the adware detects that you're connected to the Internet it starts sending you popup, popover and popunder ads for anything from airline tickets to porn site membership. Not only that but information on your viewing habits is then sold on to marketing companies who will then send you more junk email and popup ads than you ever thought possible.

Browser Hijacker
These are just plain annoying. These install themselves on your computer and change your default homepage and search engine to something else. Every time you start your web browser it will bring you to a page filled with ads, porn or other unwanted material. This interrupts your web browsing and is intensely annoying. Most browser hijackers are also data miners. A data mining program reports your web browsing habits to a central database. This information is then sold on to marketing companies.

Keyboard Logger
These programs are designed for one thing - theft. When you log in to your online banking these can record your PIN number. When you check your private email account these programs can record your password. Keyboard loggers are potentially one of the most damaging pieces of spyware because of the potential financial dangers and theft of personal information.

Modem Hijacker
Potentially the most costly spyware. Modem hijackers are also referred to as diallers. Diallers normally install themselves to your computer via a virus infection or from warez, mp3 or adult websites. A dialler is a small piece of software that will dial long distance, premium rate phone numbers when you're not at your PC. These phone numbers are normally for adult chat line services located in Russia, China, South America and the Phillipines. I have personally seen unlucky victims receive $2,000 bills for one month of telephone calls.

How do you remove spyware from your PC?
Thankfully several responsible companies have made it their mission to help eradicate the menace of spyware. You'll need 2 - 3 programs to remove spyware from your PC. The first of these is Ad Aware which is a free download. The second application is Spybot Search and Destroy which is also a free download. Last but not least I'd recommend also getting yourself a copy of CrapCleaner 1.0. These applications can only remove the spyware already on your PC - they cannot protect your PC from being cluttered with new spyware.

How do you stop spyware infecting your PC?
1. Do not click on links offering free movies, competitions, prize draws, free software or anything that looks suspicious. If it looks like a dog, smells like a dog and walks like a dog... well it's a dog.

2. Install firewall software. This is absolutely critical for Broadband or Highspeed users. All computers connected to the Internet today should have firewall software installed - regardless of your connection speed.

3. Make sure your antivirus software is updated. Good antivirus software can find and delete the most harmful types of spyware.

If you'd like more information on fighting viruses drop by for our spyware fighting guide.

About the author:
This article was submitted courtesy of the Spyware & Malware Guide. This site is dedicated to spyware removal and just generally helping users keep their PCs spyware free.

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