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Spyware

Preventing, Detecting, and Removing Spyware

Spyware and adware programs make your personal information available on the Internet without your knowledge. They often also cause pop-up windows to appear while you are browsing the Web. Spyware can also cause problems with your Web browser so that you cannot access certain sites properly. Other symptoms you may experience when using your computer include a changed or redirected browser's home page or slowed computer performance.

  • Other Security & Viruses Tasks
  • Download Symantec (Norton) AntiVirus
  • Review Online Security Books
  • Watch Security Presentations
  • Backup Your System
  • Contents:
    * Prevention
    * Detection and Removal Tools
  • Ad-Aware
  • Spybot Search and Destroy
  • Yahoo! Toolbar with Anti-Spy


Prevention

We recommend you take the following steps to prevent spyware and adware from being installed on your computer:

  • Uninstall all file sharing software. Refer to How to Uninstall BearShare, KaZaa Media Desktop, LimeWire, or Morpheus in Windows 98/2000/XP.
  • Make sure your computer has the latest operating system patches and security updates.
  • Do not install unknown software.
  • Do not click suspicious links.
  • Check for updates to your spyware detection and removal programs often.


  • Detection and Removal Tools

    You can locate and remove spyware using the following spyware detection and removal tools. Each product is updated regularly when new spyware exploits appear. These programs are provided for free by outside entities and are not affiliated with Virginia Tech.

    Important: Before removing spyware and adware, please be aware that:

  • Removal programs will not prevent your computer from getting spyware or adware, nor are they guaranteed to find all malicious programs.
  • If your computer is badly infected, removing spyware and adware can cause some programs to stop working. In that case you must reformat your computer and reinstall the operating system and program.
  • After you remove spyware from your computer, some programs may not run because their advertisment component has been removed. This usually affects peer-to-peer, media, or file sharing programs, but can sometimes interfere with other applications such as Eudora in sponsored mode.
  • Spyware detection and removal programs typically have update capabilities, but they do not alert you when there are new software updates available. You will need to manually check for updates to your software.
  • It is important to install Symantec AntiVirus software for virus protection. Spyware and adware are not the same as viruses, but both can make your computer unusable.

  • Removal Tools
    Ad-Aware

    Important: Ad-aware is free for individual use only. To use the software in your office, you must purchase an end-user license

    Ad-aware is a free utility that scans your memory, registry, and hard drives for known spyware components. In addition, it lets you remove these components without harming your computer. Ad-aware has a built-in update utility that will alert you when new reference files are available.

  • For more information, refer to the Lavasoft Web site.
  • For information about downloading and installing Ad-aware, refer to Downloading and Installing Ad-Aware Special Edition 1.05 for Windows 2000/XP.
  • For information about scanning your computer using Ad-aware, refer to Scanning Your Computer Using Ad-aware Special Edition 1.05 for Windows 2000/XP.

  • Spybot Search and Destroy

    Spybot Search and Destroy is a free utility that scans your memory, registry, and hard drives for known spyware components. In addition, it lets you remove these components without harming your computer. Spybot Search and Destroy has a built-in update utility that will alert you when new reference files are available.

  • For more information, refer to the Spybot Search & Destroy Web site.
  • For information about downloading and installing Spybot Search & Destroy, refer to Downloading and Installing Spybot Search & Destroy 1.3 for Windows 2000/XP.
  • For information about scanning your computer using Spybot Search & Destroy, refer to Scanning My Computer Using Spybot Search & Destroy 1.2/1.3 for Windows 2000/XP.

Yahoo! Toolbar with Anti-Spy

Important: Please be aware that 4Help cannot provide support for this product.

Yahoo offers a tool bar that comes with a spyware removal tool, "Anti-Spy". In addition, you can stop pop-up ads, use the Yahoo! search engine, and customize your bookmarks and buttons. For more information and to download Yahoo! Toolbar with Anti-Spy, go to the Yahoo! Toolbar site.

 

Have hackers recruited your PC?

More than one million computers on the net have been hijacked to attack websites and pump out spam and viruses. 

The huge number was revealed by security researchers who have spent months tracking more than 100 networks of remotely-controlled machines. The largest network of so-called zombie networks spied on by the team was made up of 50,000 hijacked home computers. Data was gathered using machines that looked innocent but which logged everything hackers did to them. 

Quick attack

 The detailed look at zombie or 'bot nets of hijacked computers was done by the Honeynet Project - a group of security researchers that gather information using networks of computers that act as "honey pots" to attract hackers and gather information about how they work. While 'bot nets have been known about for some time, estimates of how widespread they are from security firms have varied widely. Even in unskilled hands, it should be obvious that 'bot nets are a loaded and powerful weapon Honeynet Project To gather its information the German arm of the Honeynet Project created software tools to log what happened to the machines they put on the web. Getting the machines hijacked was worryingly easy. The longest time a Honeynet machine survived without being found by an automatic attack tool was only a few minutes. The shortest compromise time was only a few seconds. The research found that, once compromised machines tend to report in to chat channels on IRC servers and wait instructions from the malicious hacker behind the tools used to recruit the machine. Many well-known vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system were exploited by 'bot net controllers to find and take over target machines. Especially coveted were home PCs sitting on broadband connections that are never turned off. 

Use and abuse 

The months of surveillance revealed that the different 'bot nets - which involve a few hundred to tens of thousands of machines - are used for a variety of purposes. Many are used as relays for spam, to route unwanted adverts to PC users or as launch platforms for viruses. But the research team found that many are put to very different uses. During the monitoring period, the team saw 'bot nets used to launch 226 distributed denial-of-service attacks on 99 separate targets. These attacks bombard websites with data in an attempt to overwhelm the target. Using a 'bot net of machines spread around different networks and nations makes such attacks hard to defend against. One DDoS attack was used by one firm to knock its competitors offline. Other 'bot nets were used to abuse the Google Adsense program that rewards websites for displaying adverts from the search engine. Some networks were used to abuse or manipulate online polls and games. Criminals also seem to be starting to use 'bot nets for mass identity theft, to host websites that look like those of banks so confidential information can be gathered and to peep into online traffic to steal sensitive data. "Leveraging the power of several thousand bots, it is viable to take down almost any website or network instantly," said the researchers. "Even in unskilled hands, it should be obvious that 'bot nets are a loaded and powerful weapon." .

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