Even today, when spyware threat becomes more and more frightening, most computer users simply do not know how to avoid spyware infections. The web is filled with different anti-spyware sites, Internet privacy resources and various security centers. There are many spyware removal applications that can be purchased online. However, the Internet lacks information and tips on how to avoid spyware. Security professionals are fighting sequences teaching users how to work with popular anti-spyware tools or how to get rid of dangerous pests when even spyware removers fail. Of course, I don’t say that it shouldn’t be done. All Internet users must know how to protect own privacy. However, there should be information about how to avoid spyware infections. The community should give more attention to spyware prevention. Fighting the cause can be boring, but it gives better results. In this article I will give you several simple tips that may help you to avoid the infection. I’m sure you already know everything that is written below. But read this and ask yourself do you always keep in mind these tips while being online.
Surfing the web
The Internet is a huge mess. Yes, actually there are billions of perfect resources containing priceless information that you probably cannot live without. However, the web also is filled with millions of useless, insecure, fraudulent and even extremly dangerous sites. Every surfer who browses the Internet at least several times a week visits those resources. You cannot completely avoid them. Even googling for some product reviews may redirect you to a malicious web site. But there is a way to minimise the risk.
First of all, DO NOT use Internet Explorer for your everyday web surfing. Install Firefox or Opera instead. Such practice may put you to inconvenience, rare sites will not be rendered correctly. However, accidentally accessing a page containing harmful ActiveX or VBS scripts will not affect your security no more. With Firefox you can browse thousands of pornographic, warez and other insecure sites and you still would not be infected with spyware. Most parasites are installed automatically without user knowledge. However, if such a pest cannot find a supported program (Internet Explorer) it simply doesn’t do anything. Another reason to use Firefox is the number of trojans, worms and viruses gone wild. Some of them can secretly infect your computer even on relatively harmless resources. Let’s assume, you received an e-mail from your best friend with a link to spectacular image or he gave you similar link in a chat room. He doesn’t know that this “image” is actually a worm that installs malicious code whenever the user views it. Openining it with Internet Explorer would actually infect your system. Opening with Firefox or Opera does nothing. You will see either a picture or an error message saying that the image is corrupted. Your computer will stay clean.
Secondly, you shouldn’t visit resources that you do not know about. If you need some information, search for it on reputable sites. Only if you didn’t find anything you can try different resources. If a site you accessed has ugly design, contains links to adult resources or have banners with explicit content or words “warez”, “xxx”, etc., leave it immediately. It can be extremly dangerous and cannot be trusted. Reputable resources NEVER contain suspicious links and do not have messy, amateurish look.
Remember, DO NOT click on any links, advertisements, images or other objects, which exact purpose is unclear to you. It is better to be a paranoid than to take risk testing suspicious things on your own system.
Dealing with pop-ups
Advertising pop-ups became another large source of spyware infection. These harmless-looking windows appearing out of nowhere ask users to click on them in order to buy something or visit some site. Many users do not see nothing suspicious in pop-ups and do exactly what advertising companies want from them – click on pop-ups. I think it is a huge mistake. You should ignore all those advertisements. Block them with your web browser or third-party blocker, close them whenever they appear, do anything, but please, do not ever click on them. Even one click may secretly install spyware to your computer. At best, you will be redirected to an advertising site and still will not get things offered in a pop-up.
There are specific pop-ups and commercial banners that look like standard Windows dialog boxes. These are especially dangerous. They are made to trick novice users. Windows and reputable software never display messages saying “Your computer is infected!”, “You are in danger!”, “Windows has detected multiple viruses. Press YES to remove them now!”, etc. Even if such a box has YES and NO buttons you should close it using standard window controls or terminate from the Windows Task Manager. Remember, it is just an advertisement, an image that doesn’t have functional buttons. It is a big button itself, so pressing “No” or “Cancel” does exactly the same as clicking on “Yes” or on any other area within a pop-up.
What you need to know about free software
There are lots of web sites that offer freeware or shareware programs. Such applications may look very useful, but I suggest NEVER downloading and installing anything, except for popular reputable products made by well-known companies like Microsoft, Symantec, Apple Computers, etc. You see, most shareware and freeware software is made by small companies come. Such companies do not have enough money to distribute programs for free, so they include additional third-party components, usually spyware and adware modules, in order to get some revenue from their partners. Installing such a program installs a spy or advertising crap. Software giants also offer shareware programs. However, they care about reputation and wouldn’t add potentially unsafe parts to their products.
It is strange that nobody reads the license agreement before installing a particular application. Even ad-supported programs have one. Carefully reading it once could prevent thousands of users from installing adware and spyware to their computers. When was the last time when you have read the license agreement? Take it as a rule, do not setup anything until you know for sure what it actually does.
Web browser toolbars
Toolbars are favourite tools of dishonest advertisers. They implement certain functionality, but also display annoying pop-ups, links and modify browser security settings. I suggest you shouldn’t use any third-party toolbar. Why? Simply because most browser add-ons are not only useless, but also obstruct your web surfing. Do you really need a toolbar that enables search in advertising resources or displays relevant ads? Isn’t it better to use Google, Yahoo, MSN or any other popular engine? What can do a toolbar that regular Internet services or legitimate browser extensions cannot? Think about it. The only exception can be done for really legit add-ons, such as MSN, Yahoo, Google toolbars. Nevertheless, do not forget to read their license agreements. Maybe these are not the programs you actually need.
In my opinion to avoid spyware you have to be really cautios, observant and a little bit scared. Keeping in mind all the risks that can be encoutered always helps to avoid danger. Slightly paranoid users know a lot about security and therefore have no spyware.