Windows Vista - How do I detect or identify spyware?
Spyware refers to any computer program that gathers information about a person without his or her knowledge. Spyware programs can track your Internet page views, allows someone else to read your email, and even record your keyboard strokes. They are obviously cause for alarm.
- Is spyware detection software loaded?
If you do not have anti-spyware software, Gateway recommends the Gateway Complete Security Suite, complete with Webroot's SpySweeper and Windows Washer applications.
- For protection from viruses, spyware, and malware, do the following:
- Backup important documents, pictures, and other items. (Most important for recovery)
Note: These should be scanned for spyware and viruses prior to installing back on the system.
- Make the Apps and Drivers disk (second Most important for recovery)
Further protection options listed below.
- Install virus protection software.
- Install spyware protection software.
- Install firewall software.
- Run Updates on all protection programs for the most current definition files.
- Run Windows Update for most current Windows Operations updates.
- Run other software updates on frequently used programs.
- Is the anti-spyware definitions file up-to-date?
- Has an anti-spyware scan been run?
- If spyware is detected during the scan, follow the prompts in the software to quarantine and remove the spyware.
- Check for unrecognized programs in System Configuration Utility (MSConfig) on the Startup tab.
- Check unrecognized Startup Item names - If you see a process that has a random name (a bunch of random letters and/or numbers), remove the check mark
- Review the Computer is Slow checklist.
- Are any of the file related items happening?
- Unable to run virus scan.
- Unable to access anti-virus application.
- Unable to update virus definitions file.
- Unable to browse to anti-virus software websites.
- Unable to run spyware scan.
- Unable to access anti-spyware application.
- Unable to update anti-spyware definitions file.
- Unable to browse to anti-spyware software websites.
- Receiving different types of pop-up ads (See below - Differentiate Pop-up ads).
- Receiving various messages in files or on programs for no apparent reason.
- Has Internet Explorer start, search or home page changed?
- Has software, components, or toolbars installed on your system or in your browser that you do not recall installing.
- When trying to visit a certain website (shopping or search engine), you are redirected to adult, or pornographic sites.
- There are icons on your desktop that you do not recognize. (Usually link to adult or pornography sites).
- Are any of the system related items happening?
- Extended boot times.
- System runs slow.
- Keyboard keys remapped.
- Do you have high telephone bills due to dialers calling 1-900-#s or other numbers from you computer?
- Additional tools to detect viruses/spyware:
Use Gateway Security Center, McAfee Threat Center, or Symantec Security Center.
- Differentiate between spyware and normal pop-ups.
Spyware can generate pop-up ads. Not all pop-up ads are generated by spyware. Here are some ways to differentiate spyware ads from legitimate advertisements.
- Are you online? Do you have a browser open (broadband connection) or have you dialed in to your ISP (dial-up connection)?
Ads that pop-up on your desktop or while you are offline are a possible sign of a spyware infestation.
- Do the ads you see seem to be targeting you based on terms you have searched for recently or sites you have been visiting?
Sometimes this is good marketing when done within a Web site, but if you keep seeing ads that seem close to your most recent online search, especially if you are still seeing these ads after moving on to a web site that is not related to that search, it may be the result of spyware.
Further protecting yourself from viruses and spyware
- Use common sense!
- Be leery of visiting websites that are not well known.
Surf and download safely. Only go to websites you trust. Free, file-sharing programs are often bundled with sneaky spyware.
- Be leery of installing shareware and free programs.
Not all programs that are free or low-cost are necessarily bad but you need to be careful. Often programs that are given away for free will contain spyware so the author and distributor can make money from it.
- Be careful of advertising that looks like Windows warnings. Never click "agree" or "OK" to close a pop-up window.
Only click on the red "x" in the corner or press Alt + F4 to close the window safely.
When online, some advertisements are cleverly disguised to look like Windows warning dialog windows when they are a way to install spyware on your computer. One of the catches is that no matter if you click yes or no, the results are the same - spyware is installed.
- Carefully read Windows warnings that present themselves while surfing to protect yourself from spyware.
Often Internet Explorer or Windows will warn you when a program is trying to be installed - often that is spyware. Carefully read the warning and don't just click yes so you can go on surfing. Make sure to warn your children about this.
- Increase Windows Security Settings
There are many ways to increase the security for the Windows operating system to avoid spyware.
Adjust your browser security settings to Medium or higher (click on Internet Options under Tools. Select the Security tab).
- Do not let other people use your computer. Unless you can trust the other user, do not let them use the computer. Monitor internet usage to discourage users from going to un-trustworthy sites.
- Do not open spam, e-mail messages, or attachments from people you do not know.
It is even wise to check with those you do know that the attachment actually came from them.
- Be aware of sophisticated phishing scams via e-mail (messages that actually look like they are from your bank, internet provider, etc).
Many times a scam will want to extract confidential information from a user, to include credit card numbers, bank account numbers, user names and passwords.
- Choose passwords with both numbers and letters, or to be even more secure pick a "pass phrase".
Never use birthdays, family or pet names as passwords.