by Staff Writer
Spyware is a software term describing a type of malicious software (or "malware"). Spyware is unauthorized software that runs in the background without your knowledge. The spyware sends your personal information and information about your computing habits to another computer or computer network. Without security programs like anti-virus or spyware-removal tools installed, malware will usually go unnoticed for some time, accumulating until it overwhelms your computer's resources and slowing it to a crawl. Usually, spyware is programmed to record your activities while you're browsing the Internet, but it can also be involved in more harmful activities, like identity theft. Here are a few tips on malware and spyware removal and avoidance.
Watch out for freeware. Freeware is a category of software designed to be freely shared and downloaded. These can be difficult to remove. Regular uninstalling may not remove all spyware files. Because it's labeled as free, people tend to download the malware without a second thought, not knowing that freeware often has spyware attached.
Read licensing agreements. Always read licensing agreements on free products. It's boring and time-consuming, but that's where you'll find out if the product has spyware on it. It's actually written into the terms and conditions that you agree to download hard-to-remove spyware to your computer.
Only download from trusted Websites. The more often you download, the higher the risk you will be downloading spyware or malware. Limit your risk by not downloading a program unless absolutely necessary. When you do download, use Websites you know are safe, not just ones that look legitimate. Hard-to-remove spyware can come in a pretty package. Remember, if you don't download it, you won't have to remove it.
Change your Web browser settings. Set your Web browser security to a high level and restrict "Active X Control," which can sometimes allow malware to be automatically downloaded without your consent. Active X is meant to enable a user to download Website content, but sometimes it can be used to install malware. You should also periodically delete temporary files and cookies. Read the help file on your browser for specific instructions on how to perform these tasks. You may be able to remove some spyware files this way.
Purchase an anti-virus or spyware removal tool. Even basic anti-virus and anti-spyware tools with spyware removal are effective at screening Websites and files for malware and spyware. Free, stripped-down spyware removal tools lack some of the more pro-active features of the purchased malware removal tools. Which removal tool you choose should depend on the severity of your spyware problem, the people using the computer and the type of browsing activities they engage in. Use multiple lines of defense for the best computer protection and run both anti-virus and anti-malware programs. These programs will detect and remove spyware from your computer or prevent you from downloading spyware to begin with.
Back up your files. The most effective way to remove spyware is to reinstall your operating system to your computer. This removes all files from your computer and starts from scratch. If you find you are having a lot of computer problems and the spyware or malware removal software is unable to remove all malware, this may be your last resort.
Avoid risky Web-browsing behavior. Generally, a Website offering anything free should send up a red flag. Unless it comes from a Website you know you can trust, don't be tempted by these offers. When you're given the opportunity to access something for free, the spyware will be downloaded onto your computer at the same time. Websites offering free pornography, free software and free games frequently contain hard-to-remove spyware.
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