What is Spyware?

Spyware, also know as Adware, is basically software that is installed on your computer without your knowledge, and gathers information about you and your PC, sending it back to base for either Advertising/Marketing or selling to other companies.

How does it get on my computer?

Ways that spyware find its way on to your PC are through Warez, and Porn sites that can download the software without you even knowing. P2P software is also a main contender for carrying spyware, and is often installed as part of the program. Some websites may trick you into downloading a piece of software that they claim is required for the website to run properly, once you download/install it then that’s when ‘real’ problems can start.

Even software that you think is safe to download and use (Download Accelerator, for example) are actually considered spyware because they can check the websites that you have visited and then send back ads that are in relation to those websites. Other software such as Porn Dialers and Premium Rate Dialers are also a big problem.

What can Spyware do?

Once on your PC, its purpose is to gather information about you the user and your PC. Data like Personal details, Passwords, and Credit Card information can be stolen and sent to someone else via your internet connection, again without you knowing. Keyloggers are a form of spyware that can be installed on your pc and that can be used to trace and log all data that you type. Your PC and your web browser can also be hijacked, meaning that your browser's homepage could be taken over by certain unwanted websites.

How do I know I have spyware?

The symptoms are similar to those from a virus:
  • Your PC may be slower, with higher CPU usage than usual.
  • Unexpected icons and shortcuts may appear on your desktop, and extra bookmarks in your Favorites.
  • Your Web browser may have a search/tool bar that you've never seen before and a new home page.
  • Popup ads may appear even when a browser is not open.
These are all classic symptoms that you have been hijacked and are being spied on.

What can I do about it?

Thankfully there is software that you can use to eliminate Spyware and Hijackers.

First you should download, update and run both Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy. These will get rid of most of it.

Then you should download HijackThis, extract it to its own permanent folder. Run a scan and Save the log. You will then be able to post a thread in our Security forum and we can take a look at it for you to see what else needs removing.

Another program called CWShredder should be used only if you have a variant of the Coolwebsearch hijacker.

How can I prevent anything like this from happening?

Fortunately you can prevent this from happening. Here are some good threads relating to this:Prepared by TJolly, Usil, P3-450 and Supersparks