2004-05-10

Fighting SpyWare

What is one of the most insidious things these days? SpyWare.

From the subtle to the insidious to the nasty.

Subtle as sending simple information about you and your computer, things like your connection speed. This isn't too bad if you know and agree. But sometimes they tell you about it in the middle of some long annoying agreement form that almost nobody fully reads or understands.

Insidious things like Gator that download extra components and send back extra data that most people done even know is happening.

Nasty things, that hijack your home page, rewrite your host files, and do who knows what other nasty things.

In a lot of cases, you computer can start to slow down and even have a lot more unexpected crashes due to spyware that loads every time you boot up.

What can you do about it? There are a number of SpyWare scanning and cleaning programs out there. I use 2 of them:

AdAware and SpyBot - Search and Destroy

In both cases, you always want to check for updates. I run them both about once a week or so. In theory they might even catch a virus on your computer too!

Each has their own strength and weaknesses.
AdAware is better at killing cookies - sometimes a little too good. I've had to add a couple of cookies I don't want it to kill, and I think it is killing some of my AvantGo cookies.

Spybot finds some more spyware - but has a less intuitive interface. It is worth figuring it out.

One of them found that the game playing system in the latest version of AIM has spyware. So I let it get rid of it too.

In both cases, they don't out-and-out delete things; they make a list you can update and move stuff to a quarantine location, which you can delete at a later time if you want.

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