by Lisa Wimes
Spyware is becoming a real, but often underestimated, internet threat. Keep the following 7 signs in mind, as they might very well point to the existence of some nasty spyware on your computer.
Even though most spyware installs itself silently, unlike viruses their presence usually becomes pretty obvious soon enough. Often installed by abusing security weaknesses in software programs or by being attached to other trusted installations, spyware is becoming a real, but often underestimated, internet threat. Keep the following 7 signs in mind, as they might very well point to the existence of some nasty spyware on your computer:
#1 An (endless) number of pop-up windows keep on appearing. A lot of spyware will start opening all kinds of ads on your desktop or in your browser, so be alarmed when you notice an excessive number of ads. Some spyware also displays ‘non-family-friendly’ material to put it simple. Watch out for spyware, especially when your kids are also using your computer and run your anti spyware software on a regular basis.
#2 New and unknown toolbars are added to your desktop or web browser. Thumb rule: never install any of those fancy toolbars. They might look cool, handy and provide a few features, but 95% of all those toolbars contain spyware to a certain degree. Giving stuff away for free is a powerful strategy of spyware distributors, so watch out for toolbars and other free stuff. Most toolbars can automatically be removed with a quick spyware scan.
#3 Your browser’s homepage has changed. Or keeps on changing. A lot of spyware will try to change your homepage for obvious advertising purposes. Not sure who changed your homepage? Then run a scan as soon as possible, as there’s a high chance some spyware is messing with your computer, and doesn’t limit itself to only changing your homepage.
#4 The standard search engine within your web browser has changed. More or less the same as sign 3: some spyware may change your default search engine.
#5 Your computer (suddenly) has become very slow. A lot of spyware poses a real resource hog, ultimately slowing your computer down, which becomes especially noticeable when multiple spyware is installed. Please note that there are a ton of other possible explanations which might cause a slow computer. You might want to run an anti spyware software scan nonetheless. Especially when you notice any of the other 8 signs as well.
#6 Random errors start to appear. Some spyware might even cause problems with your Windows or with other spyware programs, leaving you with a bunch of weird errors and sometimes even complete system crashes. If a full spyware scan doesn’t fix the problems, you should consider using the Windows XP System Restore function. (Contact your computer store for more info and help.)
#7 New unknown icons start to appear without any reason. Most spyware installs itself completely silently, but some are kind enough to add some links here and there so you can manually launch them. Obviously you shouldn’t click any of these links when they don’t seem to be legitimate, but run an anti spyware scan first instead.