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Combating Viruses and Spyware

A virus or spyware on your computer can do more than just crash your system or delete files. More insidious strains can present a serious threat to the security of personal information.

A virus is a program that enters your computer without your knowledge and attaches itself to other files, replicating itself and spreading. Spyware is similar in that it invades your computer without your knowledge, but it also monitors your activity. In some cases it may report this activity back to the person who originally wrote the program.

Keeping your computer free of all unwanted programs is an important aspect of making sure your personal information is secure.

Be cautious when downloading

Be aware that whenever you download software or application files from the Internet, you could be allowing a Trojan horse into your system. A Trojan horse is a file that has undesired components like viruses or spyware hidden inside.

These programs vary in the amount of damage they do. One might simply annoy and frustrate you by resetting your browser's home page and not letting you change it back. Another might capture your ID and password as you sign into a financial site and then relay that information back to the source, where it may be used to steal your identity.

Be as certain as possible that you can trust the integrity of the source before downloading anything.

However, you don't have to download something for malicious programs to find their way onto your system. Some of them can sneak onto your computer without any action on your part beyond visiting a website that hasn't taken appropriate steps to prevent hackers from triggering these "drive-by" downloads. Our site has security measures in place to combat this kind of activity.

Keeping your system clean

Antivirus and antispyware programs that seek out and destroy spyware are available to help keep such programs off your system. But be aware that viruses and spyware aren't easy to eliminate.

For instance, spyware programs typically hit your computer in clusters rather than single programs. So when spyware A invades your machine, spyware B, C, D and E may also sneak in and find a place to hide. In addition to watching you, these programs watch each other. If spyware A gets deleted, spyware B reaches out to the originator and grabs another copy. So it's important to be disconnected from the Internet before trying to clean these files from your system.

Our Internet security expert recommends running your antispyware and antivirus programs several times in succession. Each run may be able to peel off layers of "masks," allowing the programs to work in tandem to target and destroy spyware and viruses that have been hiding. As a final step, restart your computer. Then run your antispyware and antivirus programs once more.

This process may seem like overkill, but many experts believe it's worth the effort to keep your system clean. If you'd rather not do all of what's described above, it's a good idea to run the antispyware and antivirus programs at least once.

 

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