What Is Spyware?
spyware: “programs that surreptitiously monitor and report the actions of a computer user”
Essentially, malware is the master term for anything that harms your system maliciously and as such is short for the term MALicious softWARE.
It is a common misconception that malware is ‘another’ type of virus or spyware.
Spyware tends to be less malicious but none the less is capable of gathering a user’s information from files, internet browsing habits and emails.
This article describes my preferred methods for ridding a Windows PC of such software.
These are powerful tools so read on for my step by step guide.
So how do I know if I have an infection such as spyware or malware??
Some common symptoms of a spyware infected PC are:
- Regular pop-up windows when browsing the internet
- An unusually slow PC
- New colorful and wonderful things like toolbars have been added to your Internet Browser that you don’t remember adding yourself
- You see new icons in your Start menu that you don’t remember adding
- Your internet start page has been changed and you may not even be able to change it back
Solution – Remove the spyware
Standard Spyware Scan
There’s never a point in going all guns blazing if you only have a minor piece of spyware installed that’s annoying you more than anything else so go ahead and run your favorite anti-spyware tools first before trying the heavy duty options.
Try downloading one of the following spyware scanners and run it in safe mode if possible.
If it clears your problem then great, if not then read on to the Advanced Spyware Scan steps below.
Advanced Spyware Scanning
OK, so the standard scan got rid of a few things but you’re still showing symptoms of spyware infections.
Here’s the news – it probably ain’t spyware but is more like some malicious trojan or worm virus (i.e. Malware). I recommend the following tools:
Both are powerful and should be used with caution. SDFix has worked for me time and time again.
- On a known virus free PC, Download SDFix
- Copy SDFix.exe to a virus free USB stick or burn to a CD
- Go to the infected PC and reboot into Safe Mode
- Insert the CD or USB key and open Windows Explorer so you can browse to the file
- Double click the file and accept any Security Warnings.
- SDFix will now be extracted to c:\SDFix folder and notepad will launch the readme file with further instructions
- Click Start > Run and type c:\SDFix\RunThis.bat and press enter or click OK
- SDFix will open a blue screen and you will be asked if you wish to continue – press Y
- SDFix will begin scanning. It could take a while so go make some coffee, that’s what I do.
- When it’s finished, it will display a message indicating that it’s going to reboot. Remove all USB sticks, CD’s, etc and hit any key to reboot.
- Let Windows reboot into normal mode and SDFix will restart and do a few final checks before showing you a report.
All done now. Virus free again.
If you want to try using ComboFix, then download it and follow the included instructions.
Preventing Future Infections
- As a start, here’s a tip – get a decent antivirus! – Here’s my choice.
- Stay away from slightly savory websites
- If something pops up at you on a website promising vast fortunes, free diplomas, free electronics, or a larger weener then it’s probably trouble
- Scan any removal media before opening the files on it – removable media includes USB sticks, floppy disks, CDs, DVDs and external hard disks
- Be wary of downloading from torrents – if you know what these are then you’re clever enough to know that they can be filled with viruses.