Spyware is malicious software that can be installed on your computer remotely, usually without your knowledge, just by visiting a website.  Spyware is made of various subgroups including Adware, Malware, Backdoors, and Trojans.

Adware are programs that are designed to target there “victims” with ads, usually in the form of pop-ups.   Adware is generally harmless, although if many pop-ups appear, computers can slow down and potentially lock up.

Malware is a more harsh form of spyware and is often used for criminal activity.  Malware consists of applications that log your keystrokes, and steal information, often passwords and credit card numbers.  These types of infections typically go unnoticed until a credit card bill reveals a charge that you didn’t make or odd activity or postings to websites that require your user name and password to gain access.

Backdoors are like giving car thief your keys and letting them know the location of your car.  Backdoors give cybercriminals full access to your computer so that they can do whatever they would like without your permission.

Trojans are aptly named after the Greek Trojan Horse that secretly concealed warriors, allowing them access to the city of Troy and the ultimate defeat of the Trojans.  Today’s Trojan Horses are often concealed in seemingly innocuous software applications such as games and software utilities.  After you install the application, the Trojan is able reveal itself and cause harm to your computer without your knowledge.

Steps to Avoid Spyware
1. Install anti-virus application and keep up-to-date
2. Keep your Windows up-to- date
3. Avoid questionable websites
4. Never open email attachments from unknown sources
5. Never click on pop-ups or ads, even on legitimate sites
6. Avoid the known bad guys
7. Run a reputable spyware scanner
8. Don’t download software from unknown sources
9. Read licensing agreements
10. Delete web browser cookies
11. Set browser security settings to at least Medium
12. Install or use a hardware firewall
13. If a virus alert pops-up when visiting a website, never click on it.  Close it with Alt+F4 or Task Manager
14. Don’t reinstall offending programs
Many of the recommended steps above are proactively maintained for those of you on our Freedom IT Professional service.  If you believe your computer has been infected with spyware, contact us immediately (703) 961-1840 option 2, so that we can access and remove any suspect applications that could be creating problems for you and your organization.