NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, October 2006
My Spyware
By Sandy Berger. Compu-KISS
sandy@compukiss.com (click to email author)

Everyone has computer woes…even me. Last week my office computer slowed to a crawl when accessing anything on the office network or on the Internet. It was so slow that I was anxious to begin troubleshooting.

Since we had recently moved to a new office, the first suspect was the network cabling. I replaced cables on both ends and used my laptop to confirm that the network was fine. It was obvious that something in my computer was the problem. So the first order of business was to scan for viruses. Since I always use an up-to-date antivirus program, keep my operating system patched, and don’t open uninvited attachments, I felt my computer was probably virus-free. The virus scan confirmed that my problem was caused by something other than a virus.

My next thought was that I probably had some spyware in my computer. These unwanted programs infiltrate computers without the user’s knowledge. They can wreck havoc with a computer. So I ran a spyware detection program named Ad-Aware (http://www.adaware.com). This is a free program that I have used for years with good results. This time, it didn’t find anything. So I turned to another favorite…Spybot Search and Destroy (http://www.spybot.com). Another free program, Spybot has turned up much spyware in the past. Yet, even though I updated both of these programs before I scanned my computer, neither found any spyware.

Now I had a dilemma. Since I could not find the problem, my next step might have to be reformatting my hard drive and reinstalling all the programs. In trying to avoid that time-consuming hassle, I decided to try one more spyware program. On my desktop I had two additional free spyware tools that I downloaded for review but had never used before: AOL’s Automatic Spyware Protection (http://daol.aol.com/safetycenter/spyware) and Microsoft’s Window’s Defender (http://www.windowsdefender.com).

I decided to start with the AOL program. The scan was faster than either Ad-Aware or Spybot, and it unearthed several pieces of spyware that were not detected by the previous programs. I clicked the button that said “Eliminate Spyware” and my work was done. My computer was immediately back to normal.

It’s unbelievable that I would have to use three programs to find the nasty spyware that was causing my problem, but this is the situation in today’s spyware-infested computer world. The bad guys are always trying to stay one step ahead of the good guys and in some cases, they are obviously succeeding.

If you want to add the AOL software to your arsenal of anti-spyware tools, it is a simple download at the AOL Safety and Security Center at http://daol.aol.com/safetycenter/spyware. You will need to get a free AOL screen name before you download the software by entering your name, address, telephone, email, and date of birth. Be careful to download only what you need. AOL will offer you virus protection, a firewall, and an email program in addition to the spyware software. These may or may not be valuable to you. I checked out the free AOL Active Virus Shield software which you can download at http://www.activevirusshield.com. This program is powered by Kaspersky Lab, one of the largest anti-virus providers, and has garnered good reviews. It is an excellent choice if you are looking for a free anti-virus program. AOL’s free email program, however, is probably not as good as the email program you are already using.

Since my spyware detection encounter, I have also tried the Microsoft Window’s Defender anti-spyware program and I liked it as well. A year ago I would have scoffed at anyone using more than one or two anti-spyware programs, but perhaps in today’s computer environment, it’s not overkill to have four anti-spyware programs!

Sandy Berger, The Compu-KISS® Lady…nationally respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author is a seasoned 30-year computer expert. Sandy is a consumer advocate promoting simplicity, ease-of-use, and stability in consumer technology products. She works with hardware and software developers to help them make their products more user-friendly.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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