Spyware Game Plan

Steering Clear of Danger Takes Smart Tactics and Good Habits

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The best offense is a good defense, it’s often said, and keeping spyware from invading your computer is a solid combination of both offensive and defensive measures.

Defense First

To prevent spyware from installing on your computer, follow some good security practices. Don't click on links within pop-up windows. Because pop-up windows are often a product of spyware, clicking on the window may install spyware software on your computer. To close the pop-up window, click on the "X" icon in the titlebar instead of a "close" link within the window. The answer is “no” when asked unexpected questions. Watch for dialog boxes that query you if you want to open a piece of software or do some other task. To be safe, choose “no” or close the dialog box by clicking the big X.

Steer away from free downloadable software - There are many sites that offer customized toolbars or other features that appeal to users. Don't download programs from sites you don't trust --you may be exposing your PC to spyware by downloading these types of programs.

Don't follow email links claiming to offer anti-spyware software. In most cases, the links may serve the exact opposite, actually installing the spyware it purports to eliminate. You’ll also want to limit your exposure as an additional good security practice

Playing Offense

 If concerned you already have spyware on your machine, consider taking the following action: Adjust your browser preferences to limit pop-up windows and cookies. The “Pop-up” windows are often generated by types of scripting or active content. Adjusting the settings within your PC’s browser helps limit or prevent scripting or active content and may reduce the number of pop-up windows that appear. Certain browsers offer a specific option to block or limit pop-up windows. Some kinds of cookies are sometimes considered spyware because they reveal what web pages you have already visited. You can adjust your privacy settings to only allow cookies for the web site you are visiting.

 Run a full scan on your computer with your anti-virus software. (Make sure it is completely up-to-date with the latest updates.) Certain anti-virus software will find and remove spyware, but it may not discover spyware when monitoring your computer in real time.  You’ll want to set your anti-virus settings to prompt you to run a full scan periodically. (This is not just for spyware, but the overall health of your PC.) Run a recognized product specifically designed to remove spyware.

Many software vendors offer products that scan your computer for and remove any spyware. One important point to remember -- make sure that your anti-virus and anti-spyware software will work with each other, not against. A phased approach to installing the software may be your best bet to ensure that you don't unintentionally introduce problems, or have your anti-virus attack your anti-spyware software.

About the Author

Linda McGlasson

Linda McGlasson

Managing Editor

Linda McGlasson is a seasoned writer and editor with 20 years of experience in writing for corporations, business publications and newspapers. She has worked in the Financial Services industry for more than 12 years. Most recently Linda headed information security awareness and training and the Computer Incident Response Team for Securities Industry Automation Corporation (SIAC), a subsidiary of the NYSE Group (NYX). As part of her role she developed infosec policy, developed new awareness testing and led the company's incident response team. In the last two years she's been involved with the Financial Services Information Sharing Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), editing its quarterly member newsletter and identifying speakers for member meetings.

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