How to protect your PC against spyware

Friday 8 March 2013

There are a number of warning signs indicating that spyware or other unwanted software may have been installed on your computer.  Common symptoms of spyware include:

Slow operation - your PC runs slowly and may even crash. Spyware programmes are not designed to be efficient - they often slow down routine tasks.

Changed settings - your PC settings - for instance on the home page or search page - have been changed and it isn’t possible to restore to the previous setup.

Regular pop-up advertising - some unwanted software will see your PC bombarded with pop-up adverts which have no relevance to the sites you are visiting.

Appearance of new components - new toolbars are added to your web browser which have not knowledgeably been downloaded. Even if you remove them, they return when the computer restarts.

Should your PC start to behave strangely, it may well be that action needs to be taken to remove the corrupting programme. However, this is not always a straightforward process, since unwanted software is designed to be difficult to remove.

Removing unwanted software

The use of anti-malware solutions can help PC owners clean up their systems and provide an additional layer of defence going forwards. Where it is not possible to remove programmes manually, this type of solution - such as Microsoft Security Essentials - can do the job for you.

However it is important to take care when selecting IT security solutions, with rogue solutions available online which will only exacerbate the problem. Such programmes may provide limited or no security, generate misleading alerts, or attempt to lure users into fraudulent financial transactions. Selecting solutions from a reputable software vendor helps minimise this risk.

In some instances, users may not be able to get access to their computer to remove the spyware. One option is to use another PC to download the tools to a disk, but failing that, help may be available through Microsoft support.

Steering clear of spyware

Of course, prevention is always better than cure where spyware is concerned. PC users can take a number of steps to reduce exposure to unwanted software tools, including:

-  Using a firewall - provides a first layer of defence against unwanted software that shouldn't be on your system

-  Keeping software updated - having the latest software versions and updates downloaded on your PC, particularly those relating to security, can help reduce the risk.

-  Adjusting browser settings - Activating medium to high security settings in your web browser can help reduce exposure to spyware. In Internet Explorer, these can be changed under 'Internet Options'.

-  Avoiding 'dodgy' downloads - you should only download from websites you trust. If In doubt, enter the name of the website you wish to access into a search engine and see what is generated. It may well be that other users have reported the site as a source of spyware.

Posted by Dan Smith