Spyware is a kind of virus that’s made specifically to steal information about your activity on your computer. Spyware writers have a lot of different objects, mainly deceitful financial gain. Spyware can perform a number of illegitimate functions, from creating pop up advertisements to stealing your bank login details by taking screen shots of the websites you visit and even logging the keys you type. Spyware may also be self-replicating.
Potentially, a virus could arrive on your own computer in the form of a Trojan, it could replicate itself before continuing on to another computer (a worm) and also be designed as a piece of spyware. Viruses and spyware are kinds of malware, which likewise includes rootkits, dishonest adware and scareware. You will usually hear about these viruses after you talk to your computer repair people. Viruses often end up in calls to get your computer fixed. Some can be solved with a simple scan, but more and more tough viruses actually require pc technicians to completely eradicate them!
- Viruses and spyware can attack your computer via the following means:
- Opening infected email attachments such as .exe files.
- Opening infected files from net-based digital file delivery firms (for example Hightail – formerly called YouSendIt, and Dropbox).
- Visiting corrupt websites.
- Via the web, undetected by the user (worms are an example of this).
- Macros in program documents (word processing, spreadsheets etc).
- USB connected devices (eg memory sticks, external hard drives, MP3 players).
- Viruses and spyware can cause quite serious effects including:
- Identity theft.
- Deletion, larceny and corruption of data.
- A slow or unusable computer.
It’s essential to keep your antivirus software up thus far in order to supply the most complete protection. Thousands of new viruses are discovered every year, to say nothing of the forms of new and existing ones. Each has a set of characteristics or ‘signatures’ that enable antivirus software makers to discover them and make appropriate updates.
Most antivirus software automatically downloads these upgrades (sometimes called ‘definitions’) on a regular basis, so long as you’re online and have paid your annual subscription (for a paid-for merchandise). This should ensure protection against even the latest virus threats.
Antivirus software scans for viruses in a number of different ways:
- It scans incoming e-mails for attached viruses.
- It tracks files as they are opened or created to ensure they aren’t infected.
- It performs periodic scans of the files on your computer.
- Some antivirus software also scans USB connected devices (eg memory sticks, external hard drives, MP3 players), as they’re connecting. Some additionally highlights suspect websites.
Antivirus software will not protect you against:
- Any kind of fraud or unlawful action online not originated by a virus.
- A hacker trying break into your computer over the internet.
- It isn’t effective if it is switched off or not updated with the latest virus signatures.
Picking antivirus/antispyware software
For private and home office use there are several alternatives you may take to decide which antivirus/antispyware software to purchase. Reputable providers include Norton by Symantec, Kaspersky and BullGuard.
Program or standalone antivirus/antispyware applications. Most antivirus/antispyware software businesses sell an application that only scans for viruses, in addition to selling complete security bundles that supply other protection including firewall, spam filtering, antispyware and parental controls. Antivirus/antispyware packages alone generally cost from GBP20 and full bundles from GBP30. A bundle should comprise everything you must protect your PC against online risks, is simple to use as everything is controlled from one screen, and is more affordable than buying each part separately.
Free antivirus/antispyware applications. There are numerous antivirus/antispyware products that are free for personal or non-commercial use. In most cases, these ‘free’ products are no frills versions of purchasable products which the manufacturer expects you will upgrade to later on. The protection factor will probably be equivalent to the paid for version, but there may be limited or no technical support and some decreased functionality, for example in scheduling full scans.
Antivirus/antispyware software for companies. Typically, antivirus/antispyware software and internet security programs cover up to three computers. Companies should consider business variants designed to make installation, upgrading and management easier on multiple computers.
Windows Defender software is included – and empowered by default – in Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, and is accessible as a free download for Windows Server 2003. The Microsoft product is designed to prevent, remove, and quarantine spyware in Microsoft Windows. It was once known as Microsoft AntiSpyware.
Some producers and retailers provide various security software bundled with the computer. You do not need to use the security software supplied, but if you choose to keep it, do not forget to subscribe once the free trial period is over so that it remains up to date.
Where to get antivirus/antispyware applications
Antivirus/antispyware software and internet security programs are available to purchase from a variety of high street and online retailers as well as from the software manufacturers’ own websites. When purchasing in store, it is regular to load a disc and then download updates over the internet when prompted. When purchasing online, you’ll automatically download the latest version incorporating all updates.
Free antivirus/antispyware software and internet security packages as described above, are available from some internet service providers (ISPs) and banks. It is additionally possible to download free antivirus/antispyware software from the web, but be certain you are using a trustworthy site.
Virus & Spyware Protection
Apart from installing antivirus/antispyware software and keeping it updated, we urge a number of other ways in which to keep your computer protected against viruses and spyware. After all, prevention is better than cure.
- Don’t open any files attached to an email from an unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy source.
- Uninstall one antivirus application before you install another.
- Be cautious with USB connected devices (eg memory sticks, external hard drives, MP3 players) as they are very common carriers of viruses.
- Be careful with CDs/DVDs as mp3 can also contain viruses.
- Don’t open any files from web-based digital file delivery businesses (eg YouSendIt, Dropbox) that have been uploaded from an unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy source.
- Switch on macro protection in Microsoft Office applications like Word and Excel.
- Purchase only reputable software from reputable firms.
- When downloading free software, do so with extreme care.