Saturday, January 19, 2008

How to Effectively Combat Spyware, Adware, Viruses and other Malicious Software

Spyware is one of the most pressing problems facing the internet today. There are thousands of these programs out on the internet that are just waiting to leach onto their next unsuspecting victim and launch hundreds of annoying popups on the victim s computer or worst steal the victims Identity. Besides the most obvious issues of identity theft, spyware, adware, malware and other similar programs can greatly slow down your PC causing it to behave in ways you would never expect. Many adware type applications will tend to pop-up numerous IE sessions on your PC â€" the goal, to get as many “impressions” as possible since the developers of the adware are getting paid per impression. Most recently on CNN there was a story of Jeanson James Ancheta, who was given a 57 month prison term for creating “bots”. He had hijacked some 500,000 computers, though these computers (known as zombies) could be used for malicious activity they were used to plant adware â€" or software which caused advertisements to pop-up on the infected computers. Through the use of this type of adware activity, he made over $60,000.00. As part of the judgement, Mr. Ahcneta was required to forfeit his illicit gains and pay $15,000.00 to the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California. With such huge sums of money being paid by advertising companies â€" whose terms of service often state that their affiliates are not permitted to “spam” or use illicit means to gain impressions â€" and the relatively low risk of being caught, its no wonder that these types of applications run rampant on the internet. There are some actions you can take to help minimize this risk. The most important thing you need to do is to keep the latest patches applied to your operating system. Spyware (adware, malware and even viruses) utilize known holes in operating systems and applications to install themselves on a victim s computer. Keeping your system up to date is the best way to help stop this threat. Two other “essential” applications are virus protectors, and spyware scanners. You should also consider using a firewall â€" either a hardware based firewall, or software based firewall. You should also employ a firewall on your internet connection to stop these programs form taking over your computer. A firewall is a piece of software code that monitors traffic going to and from your computer and it performs actions on that traffic depending upon the rules set up for the Firewall. A Firewall si very effective at stopping spyware installation and even if it does manage to become installed ( because of an user action) you will be able to prevent the Spyware from communicating with it s creators on the Internet. Any computer connected to the internet should have at least on Firewall protecting it from threats such as Spyware. Most Broadband routers have a firewall built in. If you configure these devices to block incoming Active X controls and Java Applets then you can reduce your risk to becoming infected with Spyware. While Active X controls and Java Applets are required for some websites to adequately provide certain services. While not all of these controls are used a method for installing Spyware, they are used as the primary means. The bottom line is the benefits that Active X and Java Applets provide is not worth the risk they pose to internet users. It is best to just disable these applications from running â€" but some websites will not work correctly if you turn these “helper” applications off. You’ve probably heard this saying, that the best defence is a good offence. Employing firewalls is one part of the equation. Also consider virus protection software such as McAfee Virus Scan and spyware software like SpySweeper from Webroot software. Although these applications (virus scanners, and spyware stoppers) are purchased once and then renewed on a yearly basis, they will help prevent malicious software from infecting your computer. They are highly recommended. Another piece of software to consider is a software based firewall. One of the best ones out there is from a company called Zone Labs and their product called ZoneAlarm. Although running several pieces of software will impact the PCs performance, most individuals are running faster PCs with much more memory and storage space so they should see very little degredation in computer performance. Finally it also rests upon the user to ensure that they are not downloading software from untrusted sites, or visiting sites that could be installing suspicious software on their computers. Mohammed Bhimji operates several informational sites, one of which is his free adware spyware and virus removal site that informs and educates users about spyware, and adware removal .

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