Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Liar, Liar…Watch out for rogue software posing as anti-spyware.

Ever been tricked by one of those pop-up windows that says your system is infected
and you should download this ‘cure’ right now? I have, and I should know better.
But, I was in the middle of several tasks at once, I looked over and saw this warning
window. Now this window looked similar to a window I have seen many times. With-
out thinking I clicked the ‘OK’ button thinking this was a message from the security
system. I knew when I clicked it I had made a mistake. My eye caught the web address the page was going to, and it wasn’t what it said in the link. Now fortunately our “Pest Patrol” got it and I was ok. But the point is that one rogue program got by me.

The larger portion of issues causing connectivity or performance problems revolve
around spyware or the products to remove them. And most of the spyware we receive
is actually legal. The user agrees to install it when they agree to install another
product like a search bar or email links.

The big spreaders here are Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL but there are many others. These come in the guise of weather, news, RSS feeds, stock tickers you name it. They gather information on the sites you visit and send the user data back to the companies. Always be mindful of what you allow to download. Always watch what you install. Look for checked boxes, read the license.
Make sure you only get what you originally wanted. These components compete for
the online connection and the result is, of course, connection issues.

The spyware that got me above was fed to me by the web site I just went to. The browser window was re-directed to another window that looked like a warning screen. This is another favorite method to get spyware on your system. Pretend to be a product that removes it; wolf in sheepskin also known as Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Software.

Check out the website Spyware Warrior that lists many suspect websites and programs. They have a long list of names: Adware Agent , SafeWebSurfer, Spy-Block for example. Many of the names are designed to confuse them with legitimate software like Ad-Aware. The only real protection here is to use common sense and some healthy fear. If you didn’t order it or are not sure of it, then don’t use it!

The last performance killer is the spyware suites themselves. The newer ones are
so large they kill performance on older machines or machines with modest resources.
Also if one spyware scanner is good then two are better ... right? Wrong. If they
are both running in the background and using system resources they can slow the
system to a crawl.

The best thing to do is find one good program to scan automatically and use another one to scan manually. The one we use and recommend to run in the background is called Pest Patrol . Then we scan manually with the Ad-Aware scanner, which offers a great free program for personal use. Just make sure you update your anti-spyware programs and scan regularly.

Finally, always watch what you download and install and always beware and look closely when something pops up on your screen ... it may not be what it seems.
Contact us at Computer Guys Live for affordable online spyware scans and computer repair if your system slows to a crawl and you need professional tech support at your fingertips. Also, check out our handy Wireless Connection Guide for step-by-step instructions.
By Chris Kaminski, head technician for Computer Guys Live Inc., providing state of the art remote tech support to the USA.

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