Who’s Spying on You?

Happy New Year!

We want to help your new year be prosperous, and we’d like to help you keep your PC running smoothly.  Because we know how it goes… You’re sitting at your computer, happily downloading the new free program you found on the internet that will help you manage your memory usage, speed up your Internet connection, or get you that song you wanted.  You think, “I can’t wait for this – it will be so nice to have a better running system – I can’t believe I can find this on the internet!”

Two days later, you wonder, “Why suddenly getting so many pop-up advertisements?!”  Not only that, your computer is running slower now than it did before your new “enhancements”!

Spy Photos

So what happened? 

When you download anything from the internet for your computer (especially for free), you are at risk of downloading Spyware.  Spyware (also known as Adware, malware, etc.) is “software that installs surreptitiously and gathers information about an Internet user’s browsing habits, intecepts the user’s personal data, etc., transmitting this information to a third party” (Thank you dictionary.com)   Spyware and Adware watch everything you do and send this information back for data gathering and/or ad pushing.  There are newer threats we’ve talked about before, including ransomware which are even more problematic and destructive.

 

How can they do that? 

It’s a legal circus out there.  If you agree to the software license or terms of use for any software, beware – you may be agreeing to install such technology. As soon as you hit ‘yes’, you’ve given permission to install this software!

Or, what we have found usually happens, is you’re innocently surfing the web and a page prompts you with some yes/no question. If you hit the ‘yes’ button, you’re actually saying “OK, it is OK to install software I don’t want on my computer”!

 

What can I do?

The best thing? Safe surfing and downloading habits.  It is almost inevitable that you will find some Spyware on your computer.  Most systems tested have some tracking files or software on them.  There are a few things you can do to help control the pest population:

1 – Download Adaware, Malwarebytes, and/or Spybot.  These are free programs are designed to search out and remove adware/spyware programs.  Run them every month or so – after you check for an updated data file!  Or, if you prefer something that watches your every move and makes sure nothing gets installed in the first place, you can purchase one of their upgrades.  These are designed to monitor your system.  Please note that these programs are generally free for non-commercial use. If you want to use these in a business setting, you technically need a paid license.

2- Be careful when you download and install software from the internet.  I know… this advice is like telling someone to slow down when they are going 5 miles over the speed limit.  But really – is what you are downloading from a known source?  Are you paying for it or is it a “this will make your computer better than anything” application?

3 – I should mention that just because you pay for software, it doesn’t mean it is Adaware free.  Read the licensing agreement!   Watch for clues such as, “By accepting the terms of this License, you agree that we have the right to run such advertisements and promotions without compensation to you.” That’s an Adaware dead give away – and I’ve found is especially true with mobile applications these days.

4 – Avoid programs known to include spyware.  Unfortunately, there isn’t an updated list like there is for viruses, so you just have to be careful and as your resident geek if he or she knows of any offending software.

5 – Call your congressman to keep them from trespassing in the first place.  The CAN-SPAM Act passed in 2003, however it was really just a step in the right direction.  Many more initiatives are out there, but until laws are enacted preventing this type of software, keep looking behind your back!

6 – Let someone else manage it for you.  CSI Onsite offers a proactive monitoring service that includes AntiVirus, Malware Scanning and even Remote Access. For a low monthly charge, our support staff can let you know about potential issues, sometimes before you do and then take appropriate action to correct it. Feel free to contact me for additional information.

Make it a great 2015 and let me know via our comments if you have other ideas for our blog!

~ME

Mark Espena
Director of Service Operations
CSI Onsite