Spyware and Malware are pieces of software that may be installed on a computer without the permission or knowledge of the persons using the machine.
While most simply act in a way that is annoying (opening up advertising banners etc.) others can have quite bad side effects such as:
It is unfortunate that some people go to these lengths to make the experience of using the internet worse than it has to be. Fortunately there are some tips to avoid being a victim of these practices.
There are also some tools and procedures for removing the offending software (see list below).
This is a layered approach to protecting your computer.
There are links to reputable free software here Favourite Software or on this page.
There are a number of add-ons for Internet Explorer that give it more flexibility but most still have the same disadvantages of Internet Explorer. If you prefer Internet Explorer and don't feel confident about trying a different browser then you could try one of these.
Learn to setup Internet Explorer for secure internet use here:
Install Spywareblaster from Javacool Software. SpywareBlaster will block bad ActiveX and malevolent cookies.
IE-SPYAD puts over 4000 sites in your restricted zone so you'll be protected when you visit innocent-looking sites that aren't actually innocent at all.
Use a hosts file lock. Spybot Search and Destroy has one but the best one to use is:
It uses the hosts file to restrict access to some nasty links and websites - and makes it read-only which gives some additional protection. It is regularly updated by the site and nasty sites are added all the time. Even if it's never updated, it still provides another layer of protection.
Intrusion Detection Software
This software monitors for attempts to install software, change existing software or interfere with a process. It will always need to be disabled when removing software or installing new software.
WinPatrol monitors your system for changes and notifies you when a program attempts to change something or install something. Once you have set it up for all your usual activity it is not too bad.
Prevx is probably less known but is one of the earliest IDS programs. It needs some work to configure well. The Home version of Prevx is free.
ProcessGuard from DiamondCS software is extremely robust and probably one of the best of the IDS available but it is more difficult to configure properly. It's not free. It's the one I use.
Microsoft Antispyware, Spybot Search and Destroy Tea-timer also monitor your system.
Although you should always use more than one antispyware program. Don't use more than ONE firewall, antivirus or system monitor program. They will have conflicts and may not work at all - you may not know either.
Don't forget to update manually where it's not automatic
Lastly - Commonsense
A great deal of misinformation is posted around the internet about cookies. Many internet users consider cookies a form of spyware and become very concerned about them. This attitude has been encouraged by the antispyware industry and programs that identify the few cookies that are known to attempt to track users' activities. This can lead users to believe that all cookies are somehow malicious software. Cookies are small text/data files sent by a server to your browser and then sent back by the browser each time it accesses that server.
Cookies are mostly used for user authentication and maintaining user-specific information like preferences, and sometimes, passwords. There are privacy concerns about some cookies and some uses of cookies. A cookie can be used for tracking the browsing habits of a user, but this is not necessarily bad. Many sites are simply trying to work out what you want. They can't see you, you are just an IP number to them. Interactive sites like forums need cookies to work correctly.
Cookies are not programs. Cookies do not store or send your name or address to a website. They do store their website details and can contain an IP number but this is not malicious information. Any place on the web will need your IP number so you can visit. It is your address on the web. It will change every time you log on, unless you have a static IP and most home users do not.
Commonly used browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera allow users to decide whether to accept cookies. Some websites don't work properly with cookies disabled.
Cookies can be Important
Websites, like most media, need feedback on their audience. Many websites depend on traffic to attract advertising to support the website. Cookies provide one way for a website to demonstrate traffic flow and, more importantly, return visitors. Without this feedback huge numbers of websites enjoyed by millions of visitors a year would disappear. As an example the huge information Wikipedia needs around $US750,000 per year to run. This is mostly provided by donations. But few websites could claim, or depend on that level of support from visitors and contributors.
Most cookies will not be a problem of any kind to a user and may even help a website you enjoy stay in business.
For more information and technical details about cookies See Wikipedia Cookies