Spyware is software that hides on your computer, usually without your knowledge
and without you knowing how it got there. Spyware can be used for collecting
information about your computer's hardware and software configuration, your web
surfing and online buying habits, your passwords, your email address and personal
information including your name, age and gender.
If you are wondering "what's the big deal?" about spyware, think about this:
When you have these elements in your computer, you are very easily traced by
these unscrupulous companies that are trying to exploit you. Your personal data
becomes vulnerable to being taken, your web surfing history is visible to them,
they collect and transmit data about your habits and interests for their own gain.
The worst part is that most of the time, all this is happening without your consent
or awareness. They have invaded your personal property, your computer. The
software that hides in your system may cause your computer to crash, run more
slowly and sluggishly. My response to this is to fight back and take control of my
own computer by getting rid of and preventing spyware!
There are primarily two forms of spyware - advertising spyware and surveillance
spyware. Advertising spyware is the most prevalent and will be the primary topic
of this page. Surveillance spyware includes key loggers, trojans and screen
capture spyware. These are used by large companies, law enforcement and
suspicious parents or spouses. Advertising spyware is becoming more and more
common and people who are aware of it are becoming more and more outraged.
Examples of advertising spyware abound on the web. This is a partial list:
gator, anorum, hot bar, huntbar, tiny bar, top text, ezula, searchex, lop.com,
xupiter, superbar, bargain buddy, bonzi buddy, bulla, commonname toolbar, cytron,
cydor, IEAcess (also known as egroup), showbar, searchsquire, flyswat,
backweb lite, mysearch, comet cursor and the list goes on and on.
For more lists, see these sites:
Doxdesk.com by Andrew Clover. This has an extensive list and the page has a
instructions for removal of the items in the list.
Parasiteware has lists, definitions and forums.
Spychecker.com has a search tool for known spyware. I have searched this list for
items listed as spyware elsewhere but they did not come up here, so I don't know
how complete or up to date their database is.
How to fight spyware
Fortunately there are some very good people on the web who are willing to take
on the fight against spyware by writing software to target and remove it. My
preferred program is Spybot Search & Destroy by PepiMK Software, otherwise
known as Patrick M. Kolla. Spybot is freeware although contributions are
welcomed. Spybot can be downloaded directly from it's own site and others.
Lurehere has Spybot and other tools to fight spyware. Download.com has it as
well as another popular spyware removal program AdAware from Lavasoft.
AdAware is also freeware, but an enhanced version can be purchased. Be sure
to download the latest version and check for updates before running it.
Tom Coyote has detailed instructions for installing Spybot also.
The important thing to remember is to update them often. New spyware is
being developed frequently; Spybot and AdAware both are updated frequently
also. Some people ask if they should use both. From my reading, it seems that
each targets and removes some spyware items that the other misses. So there
is no problem using both.
For help with Spybot Search & Destroy, go to the forums at the Spybot site.
The author of Spybot frequents the forums and answers questions.
Likewise, AdAware has support forums led by the Lavasoft administrators.
There are two other freeware programs which are excellent at locating difficult
spyware/malware entities. One is StartupList, the second listing on the page;
the other is HijackThis, the third listing on the page. StartupList generates a
log that shows all of the autostart applications on your system. It is excellent
for finding browser helper objects (BHO's) and hidden malware. HijackThis targets
browser hijackers that can take over and change your homepage. It contains
StartupList also which can be run from within HijackThis. The two most common
browser hijackers these days are Xupiter and Lop.com. Both have a lot of variants
and change frequently. Fortunately the anti-spyware programs are right on their
trail. They can be difficult to remove, however if you have the latest updates
to Spybot and AdAware, all components should be removed. Instructions for
manual removal of Xupiter, Lop and many other nasties can be found at
There are several excellent spyware sights and forums with abundant information.
I suggest you visit these sites and educate yourself about the realities of spyware.
You will find some facts that will amaze and disgust you. Perhaps the most extensive
and comprehensive site is SpywareInfo.com. There are many articles, links and
downloads. The forums are extremely helpful wwirh many spyware experts there
to answer questions. They will stick with you until a problem is solved. The forum is
a great place to post the logs of HijackThis and StartupList for help with analyzing
what's on your machine and what to remove. Other spyware sites & forums include:
Wilders.org offers downloads, tools, and a forum. LurkHere also has a forum with a
spyware section. Cexx.org has a lot of information and links as well as a forum.
Read also about Scumware and the scumware forum. ThiefWare.com discusses the
unethical use of spyware and adware. Visit MickeyTheMan also and SimplytheBest.
TomCat has more information, a list and a search tool. Other forums with spyware
sections: Computing.net security and virus forum, Tech Support Guy's security forum.
I'm sure there are others; these are ones I am most familiar with. A new site with
more great info is Sponge's Spyware Solution.
NEW article in PC Magazine about spyware with reviews of 9 spyware removers.
Now that your machine is clean and free of spyware from using the tools listed
above, how can you prevent the spyware from coming back? There is a great
program, freeware, called SpywareBlaster that actually prevents most spyware
from ever installing on your computer. Highly recommended and very easy to use.
SpywareGuard is another layer of protection; both of these great programs are
written by a dude called javacool who provides support for his products at the
Official Javacool Software forum about one third way down the page.
The most basic and simple way to help prevent spyware is to have your browser
security set to at least medium for the internet zone in Internet Explorer. To check
the setting, click on Tools, Internet options, the security tab, click internet zone
and set to medium. See these detailed browser security tutorials.
An almost guaranteed source of spyware is the use of peer to peer file sharing
programs, especially KaZaA. Warez, crack and porn sites are also notorious for
spyware, hijackers and all kinds of nasty stuff. My advice is to avoid them like
the plague, so that you are not plagued with spyware.
A less obvious source of spyware and adware is some of the freeware floating
around the web. Many come bundled with "extras". Read the EULA carefully to
see what you are agreeing to. I know, no one really reads those tedious EULAs
but they should.
Finally, according to this recent story at Newsfactor.com, "Well over 85% of people
have spyware on their computer". Don't be one of them. FIGHT SPYWARE!
Stay up to date on new spyware and get updates to spyware removal
and prevention software. See Suzi's blog Spyware Warrior.
Now you can get help with spyware removal at Suzi's forum.