Spyware / adware is a major major concern for PC users everywhere. Infecting your computer silently (usually installed with programs that seem harmless), spyware and adware can collect personal information about you, as well as cause pop up ads to come up all of the time, changing your browsers home page, sometimes even completely disabling your computer's usability.
This article will show you how to protect yourself against harmful spyware / adware, as well as how to remove current infections, and how to protect yourself from viruses, hackers and other general "malware".
The first thing you can do, if you're an Internet Explorer user, is considering making a switch to the Mozilla Firefox web browser. Firefox can do everything that Internet Explorer can do, and much, much more. Plus it is almost completely spyware "proof", and is much more stable and secure than Internet Explorer. You can go to getfirefox.com for more information.
Next, you'll want to keep your computer up-to-date. To do so, you'll want to download all available updates from windowsupdate.microsoft.com (if you use Firefox, you will need to fire up IE to do this since Microsoft does not like people to use other browsers, so they have "banned" from accessing Windows updates).
Now that you've got a secure browser and have Windows up to date, it's time to talk about the anti-spyware software. The following is a list of the top three players in the free anti-spyware software game:
Spybot Search & Destroy
Download from: safer-networking.org
If you're only going to download one program, get this. Spybot is known as the king of spyware removal – and is completely free, ran buy a guy who volunteers his free time to keeping Spybot up to date.
Download from: lavasoftusa.com
Ad-Aware is technically a for-profit program, but they have a freeware version of their paid software, which is just as good, in my opinion. It picks up a few things that Spybot misses, so it's good to run both.
Microsoft's Newly Released Anti-Spyware
Downlaod from: microsoft.com
Not a must-have if you have the above two programs, but it actually is a pretty good program, especially considering it's a Microsoft product. Might as well have it around to pick up anything the other two might have missed.
Take all of the programs that you have chosen to use, download, and install them. Then, one at a time, update each program, run them, and remove anything that they found. This should effectively remove any active spyware or adware on your system.
Now that you have spyware removed, you'll need hacker and virus protection.
To keep hackers out, you will need to install a solid firewall. You can either use the old built in with Windows XP, or download a third-party one.
To activate Windows XP's built in firewall, follow these easy steps:
Click the Start button, and open up the Control Panel.
Open "Network Connections" (or "Network and Internet Connections", then "Network Connections" if you're using the category view).
If you're using broadband, or another form of connection through a LAN, right click on Local Area Connection (or the appropriate network connection), and select Properties. Click on the advanced tab, and click on Settings. Select "On", and do not select "Do not allow exceptions". Click OK on all windows to close.
If you would like to download a third-party firewall, Kerio Technologies has a great firewall that you can use. It can be found at kerio.com/kpf_home.html.
Grisoft offers a great freeware antivirus program called AVG Free. It is a great alternative to the common commercial antivirus software designed to milk you for more cash with their "update subscription" fees. Updates to AVG are 100% free, forever. AVG can be downloaded from grisoft.com.
To keep your system completely secure, be sure to scan for viruses, spyware and check for Windows updates every week or so. By taking these simple steps, your computer is now many times more secure and less likely to leak out personal information or get a malware infection.