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Checking for Adware & Spyware on Your Computer

Do you have a problem with multiple pop ups, even on sites that that shouldn't? Are you bombarded with screens filled with XXX photos and links, even though you have not visited an adult site? If so, your computer could be infected with a program called Adware, or more commonly known as Spyware.

What is spyware? It is most commonly combined with freeware or shareware software downloads as a way for the software authors to make money. When you download some programs, you are often asked if you want to receive offers from their partners, but it doesn't tell you HOW you will receive these offers. Many believe these offers will arrive via email (which, many legitimate companies will do, such as when you visit a site such as HP, CNN or Amazon).

But there are the other variety which will send you these offers via popups. For example, if you download Kazaa, it comes with spyware which will pop up ads based upon the type of site you happen to be surfing. The Gator program is another example of spyware, which is a program that will ask to be downloaded when you surf particular sites. Both of these generate additional money for Kazaa and the people who put Gator on their sites.

Spyware also can cause multiple pop ups. If you leave your compyter on all night and come back in the morning to find a sea of popups on your screen, you have got spyware installed on your system.

Other Spyware lurks silently behind the scenes, stealthily tracking each and every page you visit, and sending that information back to the spyware's owner. It can tell what bank website's you surfed to, what your interests and hobbies are, and if you happen to visit any sites with adult-only content. It will then use this information together with your email address, and spam you with email related to your surfing habits. You will never know you even have it, until you do a search for it with one of the anti-spyware programs available.

Where does spyware get its name? Essentially, it gets its name because it IS spying on you as you surf, and is sending back information about each and very site you visit, as well as what pages within each site.

If you go to a Disney site, spyware will pop up Disney related ads. If you go to a toy store, toy ads will pop up. And if you go to a site that even has a single sex-themed word on the entire page, you could likely find yourself on the receiving end of very sexually explicit popups. And this is something you don't want to happen if your eight year old is visiting a site about animals that happens to discuss gender.

Spyware is becoming a larger problem for computer users, but unfortunately there is nothing illegal about it, which means you have to learn how to protect yourself, and rid your computer of it, if it becomes infected.

And when you sit at your computer and find yourself greeted with a massive wall of popup advertisements, you can inadvertantly click on some of them in your haste to remove them from your desktop.

So, now that you have spyware, or think you might, what can you do? There are two programs most commonly recommended to remove spyware from your computer. Spybot: Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware by Lavasoft. Both of these are free to download (there are paid professional versions available). Both of these links are directly at the software's actual sites, so you know you are getting the most up-to-date version.

SpywareBlaster is another program, but it prevents spyware/adware from installing on your computer in the first place. This link is direct to the company homepage, and it is also free for personal use.

Between both programs, you should be able to eliminate all spyware running on your computer. What one program doesn't catch, the other almost always does. Be sure to check for updates on each program before running, so you have the most up-to-date search files, since there are new spyware programs being released all the time.

Always be vigilant about what you download, and periodically run these two programs, even if you don't think you have anything on your computer. Doing a spyware scan on a seemingly spyware-free computer almost always comes back with something that should be removed.

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