Spyware puts PC on dual path to destruction - Your West Valley News: Columns

Spyware puts PC on dual path to destruction

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Les Blodgett

Posted: Friday, October 26, 2012 11:22 am

In early days, spyware was considered less dangerous than viruses. But now those clever folks that get their kicks from vandalizing innocent people have stepped up their game.

Now we see more problems caused by spyware than viruses. This leads us to believe that the spreading of spyware is getting wider, but the user awareness and the tools to protect computers from spyware lag behind.

So what is spyware? Spyware, as the name suggests, is programs that spy on you. It typically finds its way onto your PC attached to free programs you download from the Internet, then “spies” on your online activities — sometimes only for commercial purposes. But be aware, spyware may not be considered as a threat by your anti-virus software, it is a threat, just a different “breed.”

Aside from privacy concerns, spyware steals your computer’s memory resources and eats bandwidth as it sends information back to its home base. In some cases, this can lead to computer crashes or system instability and can even seek to do damage to your computer like a virus.

As its name implies, spyware tries to stay out of sight. How do you know if your computer has been infected by spyware? There are four telltale signs that will tell you are being spied upon.

• When you start your Internet browser, does it open to a page you’ve never seen before?  

• When you perform “search,” are you taken to a page you do not recognize?

• Are you being bombarded by pop-up ads?

• Does your computer seem unusually sluggish?

Want to be more certain about it? Scan your computer using free tools such as Malwarebytes (www.Malwarebytes.org). This is an excellent tool you can use to detect and remove spyware.

Speeding Up Your Computer

A question I often hear is how to speed up your computer. People observe that their computer gets slower and slower until it becomes unacceptably slow. For example, it might take five minutes to boot up and once booted crawls slowly through its tasks.

There are many things that can cause this problem. Usually, our first thought is that the computer has been invaded by malware, thus sapping its resources and resulting in the slowness. However, it is probably a combination of factors that cause the problem. In most computers there are programs running that are not dangerous in any way and are, in fact, useful if you have need of them.

If you do not have need for them, they still load up at boot time and take up memory space and machine cycles and serve no good or useful end.

To find them, first check the system Notification Area located on the lower right side of your screen in the task bar. If the Notification Area becomes too crowded, a sliding cover will hide some of the icons and you need to click on an arrow to see all of them.

Some, but not all, programs resident in memory and consuming machine resources are represented in the Notification Area by a small icon. First examine each of these icons to see what the programs are. You do this by hovering your mouse pointer over the icon and a pop up will tell you what the program is. It might even tell you additional information. For example, a battery icon on a laptop will tell you how far the battery has discharged and if the battery is charging or still discharging.

Antivirus programs usually are shown here and by hovering your mouse pointer over these icons you can get information about your Antivirus status.

If you want to determine how to stop a program from running, right click on the icon, which will give you a pop-up menu to open the program or perform other actions. If available, left click on either Options or Preferences from this menu to find choices about the program. Try to find ways in this pop-up menu to eliminate the program from boot up.

If you do not find Options or Preferences here, you may need to look elsewhere to find the switch that turns the program off.

To remove a program from your computer, simply uninstall it. In Windows 7 and Vista, you open the control panel and select Programs and Features, which opens a window listing all of the programs installed on your computer. Simply scroll down to the one you want to remove, select it and click on Uninstall, which will remove the program from your computer. However, be really careful that you truly remove something you do not want or need.

Les Blodgett is the owner of Firebird IT Systems. Les Blodgett can be reached at 623-680-3738 or by email at firebird1@cox.net.

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