For the past few days, I've been battling a nasty case of spyware. I downloaded something that I thought would allow me to look at a map, but lo and behold, it was spyware, complete with a few viruses as well. It started installing links on my desktop, making everything run like molasses, it corrupted my Internet Explorer as well as my Firefox, it screwed up my internet connection, and generally made a huge mess. I've been trying to get it off my computer for three days now, and though not everything has been eradicated yet, I expect to be in the clear by the end of the day tomorrow.
These are the tools I used to take care of these problems. If you don't have these or something like them on your system, I highly recommend that you install these on your hard drive as soon as possible:
- Norton Anti-Virus
- Norton WinDoctor -- usually part of the Anti-Virus package. Helps rebuild problems with anything in Windows.
- Spybot -- freeware, gets rid of spyware that is probably running in secret on your hard drive even now, available here
- Ad-Aware -- ditto, gets stuff that Spybot misses and vice versa, available at www.majorgeeks.com
Two ways to tell whether you've got spyware:
- Your system is running super-slow, especially when you're online
- You get more pop-ups than usual.
The best way to find out for sure is through your Task Manager:
- Type control+alt+delete to bring up the Task Manager. Click on the Processes tab. This shows all the "background" programs that are keeping your computer running.
- Some programs, like svchost.exe, are the steady essential things. Some, like WinMgmt.exe or explorer.exe, are pretty obvious what they're for.
- If anything shows up that you can't figure out what it does, log on (if you can), and type in the filename in Google. You'll see pretty quickly if the program is spyware.
- If it is spyware, right click on the filename in Task Manager. Choose End Process Tree. This will make the spyware program stop running, and it will also turn off any associated functions that are part of its annoying behavior. Then you will be free to fix the problem without having to fight off endless pop-ups.
Several states as well as the US Congress and also the UK have passed or are in the process of passing laws that fine companies severely for sending out spyware. The fines are enormous -- in some cases, in the millions. I now understand why these huge fines are called for. Because it took me three days to deal with this problem! And it's not advertising, it's a crime against sanity!
The Apple Lady will have regained her composure in a day or two.