The suggestions on this webpage are suggestions for your home computer and NOT for the district workstation you use at school. If you believe you might have spyware/adware problems with the district workstation you use at school, please fill out a Technology Work Order and we will have one of our techs come by to look at your school workstation. Thanks...
Do you have a problem with multiple pop-ups when you are using your home computer? Are you constantly interrupted with screens filled with explicit photos or links to gambling or adult sites when you are surfing the Web? If so, your computer could be infected with programs called Adware or Spyware. It is estimated that anywhere from 60 to 80% of all home computers connected to the Internet have some kind of spyware or adware installed and the majority of computer owners have no idea how the stuff got there in the first place.When computer owners recognize they have this problem, they generally ask two questions "How do I get rid of it?" and "How do I prevent it from getting on my computer in the first place?" Hopefully this webpage will offer some helpful hints on answering those two questions. But first, let's define a few things...
What is Spyware/Adware?
Adware can be classified as any program on your computer that connects to the Internet and uses your computer to host advertisements and maybe even transmit advertisements to other computers. The adware program may cause endless pop-ups to occur on your computer every time you use it.
Spyware can be classified as any program that tracks your computer use in some manner, including the files you download or usernames and passwords for websites or programs, and is often installed without your knowledge or through deceptive means.
How is Spyware/Adware Different from Computer Viruses?
Spyware and adware are often confused with viruses, because each changes the behavior of your computer. Spyware/adware is generally not destructive as a computer virus might be. While spyware/adware may keep track of your Internet usage or cause dozens of pop-up ads on your computer, generally they do not send endless emails to everyone you know or delete critical computer files. Some spyware/adware can greatly slow your computer down, cause significant performance problems and can be a constant nuisance by creating never-ending pop-up ads.
Some computer viruses and trojans can allow another user to take over parts of your computer while others can cause problems such as sending virus-infected emails to everyone you have listed in your address book or deleting Windows files on your home computer.
How did I get Spyware/Adware on my computer in the first place?
There are many ways this can happen. Spyware/adware may install itself when you were installing another type of program from the Internet, or by clicking a dialogue box in your Internet browser that authorized it to install the spyware/adware. Adware/Spyware is commonly bundled with many free programs, including Kazaa, Morpheus, Gator, GAIN, BargainBuddy, BDE, and Bonzi Buddy. The spyware/adware may have been installed without your knowledge while you were installing another program you wanted on your home computer.
How Do I Remove Spyware/Adware?
Because spyware/adware are not viruses, antivirus software like McAfee and Norton's will not detect or remove spyware/adware. Removing spyware/adware can be extremely tricky and time consuming. At this time there is not any one single program that can detect or delete all forms of spyware/adware so you generally have to have multiple programs to protect your computer from this fairly new, but expanding, threat.
Another problem that is unique to this type of program is the fact that there are some anti-spyware/adware programs that claim to remove spyware/adware from your computer but in reality they are programs that install their own type of spyware/adware while removing their competitors spyware/adware programs. So finding reliable software to remove spyware/adware is another problem.
We will make a few suggestions on how to combat spyware/adware programs on your home computer.
I am sure that is just a partial list...there are undoubtedly many other types of programs that use spyware/adware as well...
These programs can help you get rid of spyware/adware that is already installed on your computer...
Microsoft has there own anti-spyware program called Windows Defender that might be useful to you. The website for the Microsoft Windows Defender is:
SpyBot Search & DestroySpyBot's Search & Destroy is an outstanding adware/spyware removal program and it is currently still free.
You can download Spybot by going to: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/
You can use the Immunize feature of SpyBot to help protect your computer from getting SpyWare and Adware.
Lavasoft Ad-AwareLavasoft's Ad-Aware has been one of the most publicized and popular adware removal programs available. Currently Lavasoft offers a free version as well as versions you can purchase that offer a few more bells-and-whistles. To download the free version, go to: http://www.lavasoftusa.com/support/download/
On my home computer I run both programs (Spybot and Ad-Aware) since I find one program may catch something the other one misses.
After installing Ad-Aware
CWShredder is a tool needed to delete a particularly tough adware program called Coolwebsearch and it's many variants.
When you run CWShredder, make sure to check for any updates by clicking on the "Check for updates" button (which is highlighted in red in the graphic to the right)
Then after you get all of the updates, click on the "Fix" button to check to see if your computer has any of the variants of Coolwebsearch.
Beware of other Spyware/Adware Removal Programs because they may be trying to fool you. There are some programs that claim they get rid of Spyware/Adware , but in fact install their own brand of Spyware/Adware programs while blocking ads from their competitors.
It might also be a good idea to check what programs are installed on your computer. To find this information:
Then scroll through the list of installed programs to see what you have on your home computer. Check to see if any of the programs you have installed on your home computer are similar to the list of programs above that have spyware/adware bundled in. You can uninstall those programs if you want.
There are other steps you need to take in order to be proactive and prevent many of these spyware/adware programs from getting on your home computer in the first place.
This is the hard part since there are so many
ways these types of programs install themselves on your computer. Here are a
few recommendations that will help prevent many types of spyware/adware
programs from installing themselves on your computer.
Step #1) Update and patch your Windows Operating System - http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ - It is critical to always keep current with the latest security fixes from Microsoft. I know every tech-geek in the world tells you to patch and update your computer, but in this case it is important since there are several types of spyware/adware that use certain security flaws in Windows 98 and XP. Without the security patch from Microsoft, some spyware/adware (like the nasty little Coolwebsearch) will keep revisiting your home computer. This is important for computer virus protection as well.
Step #2) Be careful of what you download - Many free programs, and P2P programs like Kazaa or Morpheus come with bundled spyware/adware that can slow down your system and may crash your browser or even Windows itself. Just because the program might be free to install, doesn't mean it might not cost you in other ways -- such as time and effort dealing with pop-up ads and unwanted adware programs. Please remember that if you remove the spyware/adware from your computer, some of these programs (like Kazaa or Morpheus) may not work properly. Some of these programs may require you to suffer through the endless pop-ups if you want to use their free program.
Step #3) Scan for Computer Viruses - I am assuming at this point you have some kind of anti-virus software on your home computer. If you do not have anti-virus software on your computer, forget about all of this spyware/adware because computer viruses should be your biggest concern.
Update your anti-virus software by downloading
all the latest virus definitions. Then do a complete scan of the hard
drives on your computer to make sure the problems you are experiencing are not
related to any computer viruses. If you want a free anti-virus program
that many people use, you can check out AVG
Anti-Virus Free Edition or the free online scan using Housecall
at Trend Micro.
Step #4) Adjust your security settings for ActiveX - ActiveX can be the biggest pain when dealing with spyware/adware. When your browser runs ActiveX, your browser is running an executable program which can install spyware on your computer without your knowledge.
You might need to adjust your security settings
in Internet Explorer to help you be more aware when ActiveX programs are
running. To do this go to the Tools menu and then select Internet
Options. In Internet Options select the Security tab and then click on
the Internet icon. After you have selected the Internet icon, click on
the "Default Level".
Now click the "Custom Level" button and scroll down to the ActiveX section. In the ActiveX section, and alter the settings for "Download signed and unsigned ActiveX controls" to "Prompt" and 'Initialize and Script ActiveX controls not marked as safe" to 'Disable'.
Click on "OK" to close that Custom Level window and then click on "Apply".
Step #5) Use the Immunize feature of Spybot to help protect your computer from spyware/adware infections.
Step #6) Install Javacool's SpywareBlaster - http://www.wilderssecurity.net/spywareblaster.html
SpywareBlaster will protect you from all spyware/adware in it's database by blocking installation of their ActiveX objects. Download and install SpywareBlaster. Then when you start SpywareBlaster, check for the latest updates (the section marked with the red number 1)
If there are updates, make sure to download the updates by clicking on the Download Updates button.
After you have downloaded all the updates, click on the Select All button (in the blue square in the graphic to the right).
Then click on the "Protect Against Checked Items" and the program will try and set up your computer to protect itself from all of the listed spyware/adware programs listed.
Although SpywareBlaster won't protect you from every form of spyware, it is an effective extra layer of protection. Don't forget to check for updates frequently.
Step #7) Install Javacool's SpywareGuard - http://www.wilderssecurity.net/spywareguard.html - It provides a degree of real-time protection solution against spyware that is a great addition to SpywareBlaster's protection method. An anti-virus program scans files before you open them and prevents execution if a virus is detected - SpywareGuard does the same thing, but it scans for spyware! And you can easily have an anti-virus program running alongside SpywareGuard.
Additional Information About Spyware and other computer security issues
Microsoft.com - What you can do about spyware and other unwanted software
Home Computer Security - Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute