Safety Tips for
Courtesy of the Anti-Spyware Coalition (antispywarecoalition.org)
The best defense against
spyware and other unwanted technologies is to prevent them from getting
on your computer in the first place. Awareness is the best approach to
protect yourself online, so staying up-to-date on current threats and
safe surfing practices is essential. Here are some steps you can take
to stay safe while still getting the most from the Internet and software
Keep security on your computer up to date.
spyware developers exploit known security holes in essential
software, such as operating systems and browsers. Update essential
software frequently. Automate the process if your vendor offers the
- Security and
privacy settings in Internet browsers:
Many Internet browsers have security and
privacy settings that you can adjust to determine how much—or how
little—information you are willing to accept from a Web site. Check
the documentation or help file on your Internet browser to determine
how to adjust these settings to appropriate levels. See
for detailed instructions.
Download programs only from Web sites you
- If you are not sure whether to trust a program you are
considering downloading, ask a knowledgeable friend or enter the
name of the program into your favorite search engine to see if
anyone else has reported that it contains spyware or other
potentially unwanted technologies.
- Look carefully at the address of the site you are visiting to
make sure it is not an obvious spoof.
- Be particularly suspicious of programs you see advertised on
unrelated Web sites. If a maker of a screensaver, “smiley” inserter,
or other program heavily promotes its purportedly-free product, the
product may include extra software you do not want.
Beware the fine print: Read all security
warnings, license agreements, privacy statements, and “opt-in” notices
with any software you download.
- Whenever you install something on your computer, make sure you
carefully read all disclosures, including the license agreement and
privacy statement. Sometimes important information such as
aggressive installs or the inclusion of unwanted software in a given
software installation is documented, but it may be found only in the
EULA. The fine print may be the only place consumers can find notice
of potentially unwanted technologies. Unfortunately, careful
consumers must read all the fine print.
- When given the choice of opting into something, make sure you
understand fully to what you are agreeing.
- If you have doubts about the legitimacy of the software, do not
install it, or go to a trusted source to find more information about
the software. To be safe, you should never install software if you
are uncertain about it.
Don’t be tricked into clicking: You don’t
have to click “OK,” “Agree,” or “Cancel” to close a window.
- If you want to close a window or dialog box, consider the
options provided by your operating system or Web browser, such as
closing the window with the ‘x’ mark in the upper corner or typing
Alt+F4 in Microsoft Windows.
- Pay attention when closing windows; some dialog boxes may have a
prominent statement that says, “Click here to close window,” then in
less prominent text adds, “and install software.”
Be especially careful
with certain types of “free” programs.
- Many file sharing applications are bundled with other,
potentially unwanted software.
- Similarly, screen savers, cursor enhancements, wallpaper
bundles, “smiley” inserters and any other software promoted
aggressively often include extra software you did not request and
aren’t expecting. Be sure you clearly understand all of the software
packaged with those programs.
Use available tools to detect and delete
- There are a number of security tools available from a variety of
vendors that can help you identify spyware, stop the installation of
it on your PC, and/or remove it.
- Anti-spyware and Anti-virus software:
There are a number of programs (available
both free and for a fee) from reputable vendors that can help detect
spyware, prevent spyware from being installed on your PC, and/or
remove spyware if it is installed. (Some programs can be removed
through “Add/Remove programs” or other standard operating system
features.) Note that some software that claims to be an anti-spyware
tool is actually adware or other potentially unwanted software in
disguise. For this reason, you should read reviews to be sure any
anti-spyware software you download is from a reputable publisher.
Installing and using a firewall provides
a helpful defense against remote installation of spyware by hackers.
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