Five Easy Steps to Spyware Detection
Spyware is a program, usually installed on your computer without your knowledge or consent that keeps track of where you go online. At the very least, spyware is responsible for some of the pop-up ads you see. At its worst, it may "hijack" your browser, change your homepage, and even give anyone watching your online moves enough information to steal your identify. How can you stop this scourge? Well, first you need to find out if your computer is infected. If you're playing the odds, you can safely assume your computer does have some spyware on it. It's been estimated that anywhere from 70% to 90% of computers do. Clues that you're among this majority may include:
Slow or Sluggish Computer
Is it taking much long than you're used to for your computer to load a program? Does your web browser moves at the speed of a sedated turtle? Is your computer locking up far more often than usual? If so, spyware is probably to blame.
Browser Develops a Mind of Its Own
Have you ever gone online expecting to go to your web page, only to find yourself staring to the most horrific pornography you've ever seen? Or maybe you find yourself at a commercial site where you purchased something the week before? If this has happened to you, your browser has been "hijacked," a common phenomenon caused by spyware.
Spyware is popping up All Over
You know those annoying pop-up ads, the ones that interrupt your browsing to direct you to sites you are not even remotely interested in visiting. An increase in pop-ups (especially if you're not even surfing the net when the pop ups appear) is a very good sign that your computer has a spyware program installed somewhere. This is especially true if the pop-ups address you by name. ("JASON, you may have already won…!")
Ghosts in the Machine
Have you ever tied to do a web search and realized that a different search engine than the one you had selected has taken over? Or maybe you've signed onto your computer one morning and found an extra toolbar you know you didn't download. Websites that you never visited turn up in your browser's "favorites" section, and websites that you painstakingly added to that section disappear like a vampire in sunlight. No, it's not a poltergeist, just another sign that your computer has been the target of spyware.
Run a Full Scan
You can download free spyware detection software (e.g., Spyware Terminator, Ad-Aware SE Personal from Lavasoft) and run a scan on your computer which will leave you no doubt your machine has been the victim of foul play. Once these programs identify spyware, they can remove or isolate the culprit and restore your computer's function back to normal. So, if your computer shows any of the warning signs, don't wait another minute. Get rid of the spyware before it causes you any more trouble.