WHY SHOULD YOU BOTHER ?


Spyware can make your system slow and unresponsive, and force it to do things you don't want it to do, like take you to certain websites when you first open Internet Explorer (they could be porn, gambling, or a search engine they get paid for making people use).

Quite often, you may find icons on your desktop you didn't put there and can't delete (they reappear when you reboot), or sites added to your favourites that you really don't want to know about.

Some spyware can force your computer to dial premium rate phone numbers, and others can detect every key you press, so if you logged into your bank account online, they'd have all the information they needed to empty your account (yes, it really is that serious).

The worst case of spyware I ever saw made a computer take over 6 hours to boot up, and each mouse click took 15 minutes to register. Gator was the program responsible...

20th Nov 2004 - I came across an interesting site that specifically set out to see how badly a PC could be infested by spyware by visiting just ONE WEBSITE. You can see the results here, but it ain't pretty ! (hint: 16+ unwanted programs) http://www.benedelman.org/news/111804-1.html

Spybot Search & Destroy can help remove anything like this from your system


SPYBOT SEARCH & DESTROY

To download it, go here http://security.kolla.de or here http://www.safer-networking.org...

It will take ~20 minutes on a dialup modem - a minute or two at most on broadband

These notes refer to v1.4 but most will be relevant to v1.6 which was released in July 2008

Before you install the latest version, it might be worth uninstalling any previous installations you had on the PC (its usually better to work from scratch than to update old versions). It can be a little quirky at times, so i'll guide you through them where I can - I tend to do some of the steps "the long way around" but i've consistently had no problems like this.

Run the installer from wherever you downloaded it during the install process you might like to untick the "skins" and "additional languages". For now, don't tell it to download the updates immediately (we'll do this in a minute, its a quirk...). Follow through with the rest of the install depending on your preferences (the SDHelper option is the only other one I personally leave ticked)

I noticed two quirks during the update / install process :

1) the file name for the updates looked like garbage, but Spybot has its own integrity checks to ensure the file is legitimate, so this isn't something i'd get too hung up about
2) Spybot didn't start automatically, despite me leaving the box ticked to start it upon completing installation

Upon running Spybot it will display a warning that some programs may not work if they depend on spyware (surprisingly many do, such as file sharing programs like Kazaa). Just hit OK to bypass this warning (you don't want this stuff emptying your bank account anyway). You may get an additional warning if you have Pest Patrol installed to say you may see some "false positives" and should not delete specific files if found.

A "helper" window will then offer to create a backup of your registry. This is almost always a good idea.

The next "helper" screen you will see will offer to search for updates - skip past it for now (the quirk...)

The next page of the "helper" will offer to "immunize" your system - don't bother yet, we'll do this after updating !

The final page of the helper will let you read their own tutorial or continue to use the program - for now, just continue to use the program.

Now its time to do the updates - click on the "updates" icon on the left hand side, and the right hand side of the window will change - click "search for updates" in the top left corner. Generally speaking, you want to download them all except for the skins (which just make the windows look different), so tick them, and select the "download updates" option in the main window.

Now the quirk - it sometimes fails to scan properly after an update, so close the program and reload it again.

You will see an "immunize" icon in the bar on the left - select it by clicking on it, then select the "immunize" button in the top left of the main window. You might also want to tick the box to "enable permanent blocking of bad address..." and select "block silently" from the drop-down menu.

Select the "Search & Destroy" icon from the bar on the left, then select "check for problems" - it can take 10-20 seconds to start doing something - don't panic.

As it scans it will list any spyware found on your system - leave it going until it completes its scan (which can take about 10-15 minutes).

Once the scan is complete, you may find if you highlight anything found with your mouse that it can give you some more information about what the spyware is - there' an icon on the right hand side of the main window with arrows that will open a small information "tab", where it will tell you any more specific information (if known).

You can safely ignore any entries that aren't ticked by default - the unticked items are non-malicious records of things that may remember a file you last opened like MediaPlayer (or similar).

Once the scan is complete (assuming it found something) press "fix selected problems" to sort your machine out. If you had a lot of problems, it might be worth rebooting to see if you notice a difference :-)

I would recommend you do the online update and scan your computer every month Occasionally, the "immunize" option may offer more protection than before, so it might be worth checking and pressing the "immunize" icon again to make sure you are fully protected.

Download the updates, re-immunize, and do another scan every month or so to keep yourself clean !



"ADVANCED MODE"


From the menus at the top, select "Mode" then "Advanced" - ignore the warning :-)

On the left hand side is a "tools" option click it. It will expand and show about 8 items. In the main window you will see a list of about 15 available options with tick boxes, one of which is for the "hosts file" - tick it, and an icon will appear in the list to the left for the "hosts file".

Click on the new "Hosts file" item on the left hand side. In the main window will be an option to "Add Spybot S&D hosts list" do it (this used to take a couple of minutes in v1.3 but seems almost instantaneous)

What the host file does is block known sites who use malicious advertising methods such as spyware. If any webpage tries to load an advert from them, the hosts file "redirects" your web browser and tells it to look for the information on your own computer, which it will obviously not find. It can also speed up general web browsing because it isn't downloading adverts from these specific advertisers.

*** Please take the time to check out the other spyware links from the main page ! ***