Archive for July, 2012

How to Protect Against Computer Spyware

Computer spyware could be compromising your security, as well as the reason why your computer is operating so slowly.

Spyware is a type of computer program that attaches itself to the operating system. Once there, it steals your processing power and tracks your internet habits. It can nag you with unwanted sales offers or try to get you to visit a specific website. Some computer experts believe that as many as 80% of personal computers have some sort of spyware hiding on them.

What is Spyware

Contrary to popular perception, spyware is not technically a computer virus. Computer viruses are designed to replicate themselves over and over again, spreading form one computer to any it is connected with. It may also be designed to destroy personal files or the entire operating system.

In contrast, spyware isn’t designed to harm your computer. Instead it is any program that runs in the background of your computer without permission and makes unwanted changes. The damage is a by-product, not its main mission.

How You Get Spyware

Spyware can infect your computer from an action that you perform, such as installing a software package or clicking on a popup. Often, spyware uses trickery to get you to install them by giving you fake alert messages.

How Spyware Can Sneak On Your PC

  • Piggybacking onto other software – Some applications install spyware with their installation procedure. You should read the installation list closely, particularly if you are using a free version of the software.
  • Unsafe Downloads – In some cases, a popup window or website will try to download spyware onto your computer. You may receive a warning asking if it is ok, however, if you do not have a reputable computer security program installed you may not even receive a warning.
  • Add-ons for your browser – Add-ons, modules, or plugins, are designed to enhance your browser. While they may do what they are intended to do, these will often include spyware as part of the deal. In other cases they may be nothing but pure spyware. Some of these applications can be very difficult to remove once installed.
  • Anti-spyware that’s… not – This is one of the worst tricks in the book. It tells you that it will remove spyware; all the while it is downloading spyware of its own.

What Spyware Does

Spyware can do numerous things once it is installed. Generally, it will run a program in the background that will steal memory and processing power. It can also create pop-up ads that slow down your web browser. It could reset your homepage to an ad or redirect your web searches to show only results that benefit it.

Spyware can also cause your computer to have difficulties connecting to the internet. In its worst form, spyware will record your personal information, such as passwords, private information, and websites that you visit. It can also change your dial-up connections, reset firewall settings, and prevent you from removing it.

The reason spyware is created isn’t always clear. Often it can try to pad the traffic statistics for an advertiser to help them generate more revenue. It can also be used to steal affiliate credits by taking credit for sending you to a particular website.

How to Protect Your Computer Against Spyware

If protecting your computer security is important to you, then you will need to look for ways to protect yourself against spyware. Here are some tactics to protect your computer:

  •  Spyware scanner. You can use a trustworthy spyware scanner to detect and remove spyware. There are several reliable free programs available, and they work in the same manner that anti-virus software does. You may have to remove the spyware yourself once it has been detected, or the program may be able to remove it for you.
  •  Pop-up blockers. Pop-up blockers are designed to block pop-up windows so they can’t open. You can set it up so you get a warning message when a pop-up has attempted to open, and you can choose to allow pop-up windows from trusted sources.
  •  Disable Active-X. Many spyware applications use Active-X to run, and you can choose to disable this function. However, this can interfere with the functionality of some websites that use Active-X legitimately.
  •  Download and install only trustworthy software. Always be suspicious when you are asked to install something on your computer. If you don’t recognize it, don’t download it. If it is a trustworthy application, you should be able to go back and download it later if you really need it.
  •  Use “X” to exit. Avoid clicking “cancel” or “no thanks” on any suspicious pop-ups, particularly those that are designed to look like a fake warning. Either use the red X in the right-hand corner, or use the close window keystroke combination to close out the window to avoid the installation of spyware.

 

Windows Updates and Their Security Impact

Microsoft Windows updates are a two-edged sword. On one hand, they can provide your computer with the updates that it needs to ensure that the system operates at a maximized proficiency, while simultaneously keeping your computer security at an optimum level. On the other hand, Windows updates can create new flaws in your operating system that can make it easier for hackers and malware to access your system.

Periodically Microsoft will generate Windows updates. These can be used to patch over bugs in the system, fix flaws in computer security that were exposed in previous updates, and generally improve your computers performance. However, because the amount of time it takes to create updates, newly found bugs are often not fixed until several patches later. Thankfully, most users are not susceptible to the majority of the bugs, provided they follow basic Internet safety guidelines.

The Windows Update Security Center and its Security Impact

The Windows Vista Security Center is designed to furnish your system with the latest updates. Updates on this center often help to improve the firewall, make your regular Windows updates more secure, and can help prevent spyware from being installed on your computer.

Windows Vista does not contain virus scan software, which is why new users will see a warning message telling them that their computer is not adequately protected from viruses. If you install anti-virus software that the Windows update doesn’t recognize, then you may also receive this same warning message or a stronger warning. Hence, although Windows updates are a measure to implement in your security tactics, it is also advisable to install approved and recognized anti-virus software.

Windows Updates – A Think Tank of Security Measures

Microsoft has proven to be innovative, and they have experienced dramatic success. Today, however, they are faced with growing competition from companies such as Apple and Linux. Microsoft knows that they must remain competitive, and they understand that it is people, not software, which drives their company. To this end, Microsoft consistently hires some of the best programmers in the world, who are drawn to Microsoft as they wish to be employed by a leading, Fortune 500 company.

When infusing the Microsoft Updates into your computer system, you are essentially installing updates from some of the best minds in the world. Their on-going and relentless evaluation of security measures helps Microsoft to fix and repair security bugs often before they become known publically, or worse, to hackers. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Thus, installing Windows updates helps to prevent possible infiltration by hackers and identity thieves alike.

Windows Updates

You can set up your computer security to automatically check for Windows updates that will give you the needed updates as they become available. Manually performing this task is easy by selecting the option in the Control panel.

The Windows Update function is no longer web-based, and as the function resides internally you now have a much faster update function allowing you to look for both Windows updates and other Microsoft product updates seamlessly. When available, you will receive a notice to install any important updates that will affect your computer security and your computer performance, as well as any additional updates, such as drivers and peripheral updates, which are not mandatory and available as an optional download.

To install updates, simply click on the button and the automated installation of your updates will be installed. You can also choose to hide the update if you need to ignore it. You can adjust your settings for Windows updates under the Change Settings option, which allows you to decide how frequently and at what time you want to check for Microsoft Windows updates.

The Windows update option will also allow you to choose what types of updates you want to check for. Essential updates will install automatically when you shutdown your computer, and you should only change the setting if you connection is not compatible or you do not want that particular update. Windows may also ask you to reboot your computer for certain updates, which can be disabled if you are logged on and do not wish to reboot at that time.

Windows Updates of Service Packs

You can also use your Windows Updates to download and install essential Windows Service Packs. You must install the service packs chronologically, thus the first Service Pack before you install the second. All service packs may be downloaded from Microsoft’s Download Center.

Prior to installing, you should always disable your virus scan software before you install the service packs to make sure that your computer security does not prevent the installation from occurring.

After the installation has occurred, you can delete the files from the installation to free up more memory on your computer. You can use the command COMPCLN in your Start Search Field and then hit Y to confirm. This will only work once both Service Packs have been installed. You can also delete other update files once updates have occurred to create more memory space for your computer.

By downloading and installing Windows Service Packs you are taking needed measures to ensure the protection of sensitive data against an onslaught of attackers.