Spyware is a significant problem for all Windows users. If you use Windows, you must install at least one spyware detection program on your computer, in addition to your virus protection program and your firewall.

At this writing, adware and spyware are not significant issues for Mac users.

Spyware can be installed on your computer without your knowledge and can use keystroke logging techniques to collect passwords you enter, your bank account numbers and PINs, your credit card numbers, and other personal information. This type of identity theft can be costly and very time consuming to rectify.

A related category of software, adware, may cause pop-up advertisements to appear on your screen, change your home page, disrupt your network access, and reduce the stability and usability of your system. The products mentioned below can help you detect, remove, and protect your computer from both types of attack.

Detecting and Removing Spyware

The IT Help Center suggests these programs for anyone who uses Windows. You can install one or more of them and should make sure you update and run your spyware detection program at least once a week.

Free Download:

Commercially Available:

Warning: A few of the other programs that claim to remove spyware are themselves spyware. Never install “spyware-removal” software that you see advertised on pop-up windows without checking it out first. See the Spyware Warrior page for a list of suspicious products.

Avoiding Spyware

Most spyware is installed without your knowledge, through file-sharing programs through some (but not all) websites that prompt you to install special software in order to view the page, or through email messages that lure you with tempting links. If you are not sure about a specific piece of software you are being asked to install, you should search Google for more information to help make your decision. You should make certain you know the reason any software is being installed and that you trust the source it’s coming from.

Be Cautious with Pop-ups

If you are prompted to install software you don’t recognize and don’t want to install: be cautious. Even when you select “Cancel” or “No” in these windows, the software may still be installed, without your consent. The best way to dismiss these prompts is to click the X in the upper right side of the window. If you think you may have made the wrong choice when prompted in the past, please run a good spyware detection program now.

Do you run AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)?

If so, please see the AIM Online Safety/Security FAQ.

Commonly Found Spyware

The website at cexx.org offers a comprehensive and often updated list of known spyware for you to consult.

For More Information

If you would like to learn more about adware and spyware, the CEXX website is an excellent resource, as is the GetNetWise site. If you need help using antispyware software on your computer, call the IT Help Center at 617-353-4357.