What are the best spyware removal tools? We have all picked up bugs from time to time, but this is not an article on personal hygiene or lifestyle choices though even in our cyber lives there are certain habits that we can get into that can be viewed as risky behaviour.
No this is an article on Virus and spy or adware attacks. The collective term for this type of software is Malware, because it has a MALicious intent.
The best attitude to adopt towards this form of defence is taken from the Scouts, be prepared. Before launching yourself on to the internet it is best to do some reading into the internet and how best to protect yourself. If you are the personality type that unpacks your bright shiny PC or you gets someone do it for you, and immediately connects to the internet and start roaming around without taking any form of security precautions it won’t be too long before your PC is so infected that you really cannot class it as your PC anymore. It will have been completely taken over by others for whatever purpose, DOS attacks, remote access, viral infection, spyware, trojans: oh, my!
The best weapon you can have against these horrors is knowledge. If you have some understanding of how and why these attacks occur, you will have a better chance of not being infected in the first place.
Take one PC, with operating system installed but an internet virgin, never been connected to the net. The first line of defence should be installing a good virus application from a clean source such as the manufactures disc, either supplied with your PC or taken from a reputable PC magazine’s cover disc and not from the internet.
There is some debate between free anti virus software and commercial applications. Having tried both, I have found that there is little difference in protection levels and even at times, better stability in some of the free programs than their commercial rivals.
Next, again from offline sources, install an anti-spyware application, (these are not to be confused with anti-virus software, they are generally not the same thing and do not do the same tasks.) The next important line of defence is to turn on your firewall, or installing a third party firewall from a clean reliable source as mentioned above. After completing these tasks, you are then safe to log on to you ISP and access the net.
Before rushing off to do your on-line shopping or setting up your MySpace account, download all the updates for your operating system from the manufactures site. Download and install all the updates for your anti-virus application, your anti-spyware applications (note the plural! Do not just rely on one!) In addition, your firewall if using a third party firewalls.
• Risky Business
How you use your PC will give some indication of your level or risk of contracting something nasty, virtually speaking of course!
If you use the PC for email for instance, and you open and emails without thought or consideration of who sent it and what it might contain, your chances of spending a lot of time trying to fix problems that could so easily been avoided are greatly increased. My recommendation regarding emails is to use a third party application that has limited graphically support and will not automatically open emails. My favourite is Mailwasher. I am currently using version 2.0.19 and have found it stable and simple to use and reliable.
You set the program up just as you would any other email client application, the user name for the account, the password to log on with, and the email provider’s server address. It will handle both pop and web based mail, though it may only have access to your primary accounts, depending largely on you email service provider. MSN seem to limit access to secondary accounts with third party applications anyway. By using this application, which will run in the background, periodically logging on to all of you email accounts, download the header portion of the message and give recommendations based upon analysis of the originating address, checked against a data base of known viruses, spam and flag them or email addresses that you have placed upon a blacklist. It will then delete the offending emails on the server without you having to log on to your email provider to do so. You can then be sure that whatever is in your inbox is there because you want it. It is great at dealing with all of those bogus bank details requesting email.
Your email provider may also supply email scanning and flagging too, but this application is another good line of defence that you control. If you are planning to use the PC for Instant Messaging and chat there are certain risks involved with this, too.
Allowing anyone to contact you can be great fun and can lead to some interesting conversations with complete strangers. However, the practice can come with some risks. One of the more useful features of IM is the ability to send each other files without having to go through all that tedious procedure of composing an email, attaching the document, and then sending the email. File sharing via IM applications is much simply and quicker. Its drawbacks are that it can make you somewhat vulnerable because most of these files are not scanned as it arrives to you PC by the virus checker for malware because it did not arrive as an email attachment.
When you first start using IM, ensure that your security setting do not allow anyone who you do not know or trust to contact you until you get more experience and familiar with both the software and security issues in general. If you do accept a file, do not open it until you have run a virus/spyware scan on the file. This can be usual achieved by locating the file, highlighting it and activation the virus checker and the spyware checker, generally, they have a menu entry accessed by clicking the right mouse button and choosing from the drop down menu. If all clear open the file, if not delete before you open it. The act of opening the file or sometimes just accepting the download can activate the malware that the file contains. I know this from bitter experience.
File sharing via P2P software generally runs the same risks as file sharing via IM and can be dealt with in the same fashion.
On-line banking and purchasing on-line can also be risky. One thing to consider is that would your bank ever contact you by email alone? They still use the good old-fashioned postal service. If you receive an email purporting to be from your bank, but does not address you by name it 99.9999999999999999999999 percent a scam. Do not respond and do not open. If you use Mailwasher, it actually allows you to see the originating web address of the sender and from this, you will be able to tell if it is genuine. Delete!
• Be wary of what sites you visit.
Yes, there is lots of publicity in the media of dubious sites, which commit drive by attacks when you visit them and place malware on your PC. However, what the media fail to mention that these types of sites are not all in the hands of what would be, traditionally regarded as criminals. What you would think and believe, as honest reputable organisations such as government departments, will place keylogger software on your PC without your knowledge or consent, allowing them to have detailed logs of whatever you type on the keyboard, because they think they have the right to do so. So be very wary of such practices. Yet again knowledge gained by personal experience.
Other measures I would recommend are:
• Stop using Internet Explorer and switch to Firefox.
• Download and install the Yahoo Toolbar for Firefox as both have Pop-up blockers to help stop those pop-up ads. Ghostsurf has this option too and Spybot can immunise you browser against attacks.
• In summing up.
My list of recommended software:
• Anti-Virus Software: AVG. I have used Norton but found it became unstable and parts stopped working.
• Anti- Spyware: GhostSurf (Including Spy Catcher). This is a commercial application.
Spybot – Search & Destroy. Spybot http://www.safer-networking.org/
A Squared (a.k.a A2)
• Anti-Adware: Ad-Aware SE Personal
Some of these overlap. Ad-Aware and A squared for example, though A Squared has more powerful options.
• Firewalls: Hardware firewalls are the best but at the very least you should run a software firewall, if you are a Windows user (if your not and use Linux you are probably far more savvy regarding these issues and have got bored by this article already!), you should at least run the built in firewall.
Others I have used have been Zonealarm and Black Ice Defender. Both excellent third party software firewall options.
• Mailwasher. (see above)
Use Virtualisation software to create several virtual pc’ to different tasks, thus minimising the chance of any infections taking over your ‘real PC.’ It is too large a subject to touch on with any great depth in this article.
For further information regarding Virtualisation, see the following articles: http://www.helium.com/tm/381506/virtualisationwhat-itvirtualisation-using-software. In addition, Tips for buying an external hard drive: http://www.helium.com/tm/472856/after-several-years-running.
If Malware has already infected your PC, you can try the following:
• Boot up your pc in Safe Mode. This is accomplished by pressing the F8 key as the PC is booting up. If you have done this operation correctly, you will get a black screen with several options, one of which will be safe mode, choose this option.
• Once the PC has booted Windows, it will look completely different from your normal desktop. The Icons will be larger, the colours will seem more limited and it should have the words Safe Mode in each corner of the screen.
• Locate and run the above mention applications or others if you so choose.
• First your virus checker, then your anti spyware applications.
• Follow any instructions to the letter that these applications give you. If there is something you do not understand, do not worry. Do some more research if you do not feel confident, just do not delete or quarantine anything that you suspect may disrupt your normal use of the PC. Alternatively, as for more help. Good source for help can be the on-line forums of some of the leading PC and computing magazines who have a very wide readership and a lot of collective knowledge.