Sumrall Computer Consulting

Beaver, OK & San Jose, CA

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This site is dedicated to helping those computer users who have problems understanding the ins and outs of 'spyware', 'ad ware', 'viruses', and other things that tend to invade the peaceful tranquility of your Personal Computer.

What is spyware: (Definition taken from Webopedia )

Any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet; however, it should be noted that the majority of shareware and freeware applications do not come with spyware. Once installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and transmits that information in the background to someone else. Spyware can also gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords and credit card numbers.

Spyware is similar to a Trojan horse in that users unwittingly install the product when they install something else. A common way to become a victim of spyware is to download certain peer-to-peer file swapping products that are available today.  

What is ad ware: (Definition taken from Webopedia )

(1) A form of spyware that collects information about the user in order to display advertisements in the Web browser based on the information it collects from the user's browsing patterns.

(2) Software that is given to the user with advertisements already embedded in the application.

All of these can be lumped into a generalized category of MALWARE

There are really only two ways your machine can become infected with Spyware: 

  1. You run a program that infects your machine 
  2. You visit a website that runs a program that infects your machine 

To combat #1 make sure you DO NOT run programs that you are not 100% positive where they came from. If someone sends you an email with a program attached and you're not expecting it, call or email that person and make sure they sent you the program. Then, once they've confirmed they sent it, run your virus checker against it? Don't have a virus checker? That's OK, we have links to them. 

To combat #2 quit using Internet Explorer. Switch to Firefox or Opera! No, I don't mean you should uninstall IE, keep it around for those websites that absolutely require it. Do most of your web surfing using an alternative browser. Only open up Internet Explorer when you're absolutely certain you need to go to that website and it WILL NOT work with Firefox. Why do I say this? Many viruses and spyware are installed as a result of innocent web surfing. It can be something as simple as misspelling or clicking on a link that takes you somewhere you didn't intend. The ActiveX component that's supported by IE is what exposes you to the biggest possibility of infection.

What can I do to limit my exposure to these evil things?

There are several things that you can do.

Download free, or paid for, software that assist in containing the beasts.  I personally use the following free software: 

Ad-Aware Personal
from LavaSoft ...
Spybot S&D
AVG Anti-Virus from GRISOFT
Microsoft AntiSpyWare  only for Windows 2000 and XP  - this is currently free but that may change in the July 2005 timeframe

The following links provide insight into the Windows operating system and security.

Microsoft's MVPS - Most Valuable Professionals provide insight
Microsoft Security Tips
Home Computer Security

Rogue/Suspect AntiSpyWare products

I use all the above tools regularly but most importantly, I use common sense to surf the web safely. This means I don't download anything I don't know what is and am reasonably sure won't impact the stability of my PC.  This includes ActiveX and DirectX controls from sites I don't know anything about.

I don't play games on my PC, except maybe Solitaire that came with the computer and I certainly don't download games, that's just asking for trouble.  You see almost everyone that has a web page with things to give away has an ulterior motive for doing so and even the reputable ones will most likely put something on your PC, without your knowledge, that can track what you do, when you do it and how often you do it.


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