If you want to avoid being overrun with spyware then read and avoid the five mistakes most everyone makes...
You have already heard enough about spyware to last you for a lifetime. So why is your machine acting so strange lately? The crashes, the sluggish behavior and the pop-ups are driving you mad.
You have got all the right stuff: all the software programs, the anti-virus, the firewall, etc. But your PC has been acting up and now there is some weird program installed on your desktop. If you want to get your computer back on track then you should see if you are making these five mistakes.
1) Did you forget to update your operating system?
Updating your computer can be a pain, I know. But of the things you could do to lock down and secure your PC, this one beats out all the others hands down. The boys from Redmond, WA (Microsoft headquarters), develop and send out operating system updates at least once a month, usually on a Tuesday.
Your best method is to turn on your Windows "Automatic Updates" module and let it handle the download and installation process for you "auto-magically". But you prefer you can just remember to use the "Windows Update" browser (click on "START" > "Windows Update") to manually download the latest patches.
2) Did you forget to use your anti-spyware program?
If you haven't already done it, you should download a good spyware remover like Ad-Aware SE, Spybot S&D or SpySweeper. Once you have the program of your choice installed, you should take the time to run a complete scan of your hard drive. Now this could take several minutes up to an hour if your PC is heavily infected. So you should do this while no one is scheduled to use the PC since multitasking slows down the scanning process.
Quarantine and remove as much of the spyware as you can. If you run into any really stubborn to remove stuff, just restart your computer and press "F8" after the PC logo, to enter the Windows Safe Mode area. Once in Safe Mode, just run the program.
3) Did you remember to install a good firewall?
You should use a personal firewall like ZoneAlarm or Avast! If you are using Windows Vista, then you should make sure the native firewall is turned on. A firewall is basically an application that acts as a "shield" that protects your PC from attacks from outside. It also can act as a barrier that makes it difficult for certain malicious programs access the Internet though your connection.
Bad programs often are designed to act as Trojan Horses (there is special class of software named exactly for this) that "open" the doorways (ports) of your PC for more dangerous programs to enter.
4) Did you visit one of the "3 G's" lately?
Gaming, Gambling and Girlie websites are often hotbeds of spyware and viruses. Be very cautious when visiting websites like these unless they are run by a trusted (brand-name) publisher. A website named "Get-your-woo-woo-here" is more likely to use malicious programs then a website published by a million dollar company like Playboy Enterprises. Gaming "cheat" sites can also have digital tag-alongs for "advertising" purposes. Also exercise extreme caution in using off-shore gambling sites run by shady operators.
5) Did you download something from a P2P network?
Copyright issues aside, some users and some shady operators of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks deliberately upload infected files and programs to gain illegal access to sensitive stuff on other people's computers. Don't reuse any password you have used on a P2P, since most don't secure usernames or passwords. And make sure your web browser is set to ask your permission before downloading any file. Know what you are downloading!