Five Signs of a Spyware Infection

Throughout most of 2008 it seemed that virus and spayware infections were decreasing, and I assumed that meant that the Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware software comapnies had a handle on dectection and prevention. But in the last 2 months, it appears that the forces of darkness are back with better than ever mal-ware products that are taking over machines of my clients.
Most of this seems to be delivered via e-mail, usually in the form of a clickable link that takes you to a web site or starts an on-line download and installation from a remote server. Some novel approaches are to embed the software in a video (watch this funny video and get spyware for free) or music files (where the usually ploy is to get you to install a “codec” or audio file decoder. The codec is actually mal-ware).
Best prevention is to be running an up-to-date version of a major brand Internet Security Suite. I recommend AVG Internet Security version 8 myself, but Norton Internet Security 2009 is getting high praise fom the testing labs, both for low system resource useage and excellent detectin and eradication modules. Stay away from McAfee, especially the “free” version that is part of many high speed Internt subscriptions. I had a situation with a clinet who moved from Comcast to Qwest DSL. Their Comcast provided McAfee blocked their new DSL Internet connection, and had to be uninstalled.
Also stay FAR FAR AWAY from no name brands, especially Anti-Virus XP, Anti-Virus 2008, Anti-Virus 2009 or Anti-Virus Vista, and similarly named Anti-Spy or Anti-Spyware products. These are actually serious mal-ware products sold by organized criminal gangs, are a waste of money, and open you computer up for remote control, and theft of identity, credit card information, passwords, and on-line accounts.
I saw this information in a recent edition of the “Security for Home Computers” newsletter from Microsoft. It gives five signs that you may be suffereing from a mal-ware infection.

If your computer starts to behave strangely or displays any of the symptoms listed below, you may have spyware or other unwanted software installed on your computer.

•I see pop-up advertisements all the time. Some unwanted software will bombard you with pop-up ads that aren’t related to a particular Web site you’re visiting. These ads are often for adult or other Web sites you may find objectionable. If you see pop-up ads as soon as you turn on your
computer or when you’re not even browsing the Web, you may have spyware or other
unwanted software on your computer.
•My settings have changed and I can’t change them back to the way they were. Some unwanted software has the ability to change your home page or search page settings. This means that the page that opens first when you start your Internet browser or the page that appears when
you select “search” may be pages that you do not recognize. Even if you know how to adjust these settings, you may find that they revert back every time you restart your computer.
•My Web browser contains additional components that I don’t remember downloading. Spyware and other unwanted software can add additional toolbars to your Web browser that you don’t want or need. Even if you know how to remove these toolbars, they may return each time you restart your computer.
•My computer seems sluggish. Spyware and other unwanted software are not necessarily designed to be efficient. The resources these programs use to track your activities and deliver advertisements can slow down your computer and errors in the software can make your computer crash.

If you notice a sudden increase in the number of times a certain program crashes,
or if your computer is slower than normal at performing routine tasks, you may
have spyware or other unwanted software on your machine.


About the Author:

I am a cybersecurity and IT instructor, cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. I am an owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, I also conduct security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. I also teach Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. I work as an information technology and cybersecurity instructor for several training and certification organizations. I have worked in corporate, military, government, and workforce development training environments I am a frequent speaker at professional conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at

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