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Spyware, Adware, and Viruses

Spyware and Adware are general terms for programs that surreptitiously monitor your actions. While they are sometimes sinister, like a remote control program installed by a trojan, software companies have been known to use spyware to gather data about customers. The practice is generally frowned upon. These programs are not considered viruses. Viruses replicate themselves across a network, or the Internet as a whole. The virus payload may be destructive, like code to delete files, or it could simply try to overwhelm a network by copying itself. Worms on the other hand, are viruses that replicate themselves without human intervention. If the victim has to open an e-mail attachment to get infected, it's a virus. But if it scans for new victims and attacks by itself, it's a worm.

The following topic was written by AntiSpyware Expert Tony Klein and has been posted in numerous security forums. Hopefully, these tips and tools will help you understand how to stay safe and prevent any future infections.

QUOTE

SO, HOW DID I GET INFECTED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

You usually get infected because your security settings are too low.

Here are a number of recommendations that will help tighten them, and which will contribute to making you a less likely victim:

1) Watch what you download!
Many freeware programs, and P2P programs like Grokster, Imesh, Kazaa and others are amongst the most notorious, come with an enormous amount of bundled spyware that will eat system resources, slow down your system, clash with other installed software, or just plain crash your browser or even Windows itself.

2) Go to IE > Tools > Windows Update > Product Updates, and install ALL Security Updates listed.
It's important to always keep current with the latest security fixes from Microsoft.
Install those patches for Internet Explorer, and make sure your installation of Java VM is up-to-date. There are some well known security bugs with Microsoft Java VM which are exploited regularly by browser hijackers.

Windows Update:
http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/en/default.asp

3) Adjust your security settings for ActiveX
Go to Internet Options/Security/Internet, press 'default level', then OK.

Now press "Custom Level."

In the ActiveX section, set the first two options ("Download signed and unsigned ActiveX controls) to 'prompt', and 'Initialize and Script ActiveX controls not marked as safe" to 'disable'.

Now you will be asked whether you want ActiveX objects to be executed and whether you want software to be installed.
Sites that you know for sure are above suspicion can be moved to the Trusted Zone in Internet Option/security.

So why is activex so dangerous that you have to increase the security for it?
When your browser runs an activex control, it is running an executable program. It's no different from double clicking a .exe file on your hard drive.
Would you run just any random file downloaded off a web site without knowing what it is and what it does?

And some more advice:

4) Install Javacool's SpywareBlaster.
SpywareBlaster
http://www.wilderssecurity.net/spywareblaster.html
SpywareBlaster will protect you from all spy/adware in it's database by blocking installation of their ActiveX objects.  Download and install, download the latest updates, and you'll see a list of all spyware programs covered by the program (NOTE: this is NOT spyware found on your computer)
Press "select all", then "kill all checked", and you're done.
The spyware that you told Spywareblaster to set the "kill bit" for won't be a hazard to you any longer.
Although it won't protect you from every form of spyware known to man, it is a very potent extra layer of protection.
Don't forget to check for updates every week or so.  Let's also not forget that SpyBot Search and Destroy has the Immunize feature which works roughly the same way.
It can't hurt to use both.

Download Spybot Search and Destroy
http://www.safer-networking.org/


5) Another brilliant program by Javacool we recommend is SpywareGuard.
It provides a degree of real-time protection solution against spyware that is a great addition to SpywareBlaster's protection method.

SpywareGuard
http://www.wilderssecurity.net/spywareguard.html

An anti-virus program scans files before you open them and prevents execution if a virus is detected - SpywareGuard does the same thing, but for spyware! And you can easily have an anti-virus program running alongside SpywareGuard.
It now also features Download Protection and Browser Hijacking Protection!

6) IE-SPYAD puts over 5000 sites in your restricted zone, so you'll be protected when you visit innocent-looking sites that aren't actually innocent at all.
http://www.staff.uiuc.edu/~ehowes/resource.htm#IESPYAD

Finally, after following up on all these recommendations, why not run Jason Levine's Browser Security Tests.
http://www.jasons-toolbox.com/BrowserSecurity/

They will provide you with an insight on how vulnerable you might still be to a number of common exploits.

To add to Tony's excellent advice above, you may find these additional programs and security sites helpful in spyware prevention and removal:

7) Three free programs available to scan and remove spyware from your system.

Download and install Adaware
http://www.lavasoft.de/software/adaware/

Update the program before scanning (do NOT skip this step.)
Reboot your PC after scanning and cleaning with Adaware

Download and install Spybot Search & Destroy
http://www.safer-networking.org/

Update the program before scanning (do NOT skip this step.)
Reboot your PC after scanning and cleaning with Spybot Search and Destroy

A comprehesive Tutorial by the Author of Spybot Search & Destroy:
http://www.safer-networking.org/index.php?...p?page=tutorial

Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta:
http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx

A Special Tool for Coolwebsearch and it's many variants is CWShredder
Just download it, click the 'check for update' button and download any updates that may be available.
Click the 'Fix' button to run it.
http://www.download.com/CWShredder/3000-8022_4-10329103.html?tag=lst-0-1

Alternate download for CWShredder at Major Geeks site:
http://www.majorgeeks.com/downloadget.php?...6c5901960cc6e24s

See also this full article by the Author of CWShredder
The CoolWebSearch Chronicles, The story of a thousand hijacks
http://www.merijn.org/cwschronicles.html

8) Scan for Viruses and common trojans online and free.

Panda's Active Scan
http://www.pandasoftware.com/activescan/co...n_principal.htm

Trend Micro (PC-cillin) - Free on-line Scan
>http://housecall.trendmicro.com

RAV Antivirus Online Scan
http://www.ravantivirus.com/scan/indexie.php

eTrust AV web scanner (Computer Associates)
http://www3.ca.com/virusinfo/virusscan.aspx

9) Some Security Sites worth reading and bookmarking for reference and to help you get started in your PC Security.

Home Computer Security
http://www.cert.org/homeusers/HomeComputerSecurity/

Protecting Your Home Network
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/usi...tecthomenet.asp

Home Network Security
http://www.cert.org/tech_tips/home_networks.html

Malicious Code Propagation and Antivirus Software Updates
http://www.cert.org/incident_notes/IN-2003-01.html

National Institue of Standards and Technology
Computer Security Resource Center
http://csrc.nist.gov/

Stay Safe Online
http://www.staysafeonline.info/

Protecting Your Privacy & Security on a Home PC
http://www.staff.uiuc.edu/~ehowes/main-nf.htm


IE-SPYAD: Restricted Sites List for Internet Explorer
http://www.staff.uiuc.edu/~ehowes/resource.htm

Working with Internet Explorer 6 Security Settings
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/using/...ty/settings.asp


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