Steering clear of spyware can be a difficult thing to do, especially with all the clicking you have to do just to get the information you’re looking for. A single-click here, a double-click there, lather-rinse-repeat this process for a few months and generously sprinkle that time with a few instances of drive-by downloads and a couple of missed opt-ins and before you know it your once speedy computer is slower than molasses in January.
Spyware happens, but there are things you can do to help stem the flow of it on your computer. By making a few easy-to-adopt changes to the way you browse the Internet and taking an extra minute before you download something, the tips we’ve compiled below will help you stay spyware-free.
- Watch where you’re browsing:
Spyware (and malware in general) tends to get on your computer from a shady source. Staying away from untrusted or unknown websites is an easy way to fight spyware. If you need to download updates or specific software packages your best bet is to get it directly from the manufacturer’s website (i.e. go to adobe.com for Adobe Acrobat updates). If you’re looking for software in general (i.e. you’re looking for DVD burning software but don’t know of a specific maker) then try a major download site like tucows.com or download.com.
- Download with caution:
A popular tactic with spammers is to send you to a fake website that looks like a legitimate one. Spyware makers have taken that lead and run with it for their own purposes. Stay one step ahead of them both by making sure you’re looking at, and downloading from, the site you’re actually supposed to be on. You can learn more about detecting fake websites in one of our previous blog posts.
- Read the Fine Print:
There are 2 common places to look for the tell-tale signs of spyware on a website you aren’t familiar with:
- The download or info page:
Some software or websites, by their very nature, need to contact the mothership every now and again. Anonymous usage statistics, passing along pertinent information such as items in a shopping cart before you purchase, and things of that nature are part and parcel of getting things done online. What you don’t want, however, is to have things like your social security number, credit card, or email address passed around without it being absolutely necessary. Entering your Visa number in a shopping cart is one thing, but there’s no real reason for that cart to ask for your SSN. Keep an eye out for oddities like that when you’re browsing, and make sure what they’re asking for makes sense.
- The EULA:
“What’s a EULA”, you ask? A EULA is an acronym for “End User License Agreement”. It’s where all the technical and legal mumbo-jumbo is put in (or before) a download (or install). Most people consider reading the EULA a nuisance and click on “yes” without having read a word. Keep in mind that acceptance of the EULA is a legal agreement you’re entering into with a software vendor, and if you don’t read it you won’t know what you’re agreeing to. Give a EULA the once-over before you install anything and make sure that everything is on the up-and-up.
- The download or info page:
- Get protected, stay protected:
Your antivirus software, in all likelihood, won’t do anything for you about spyware. It’ll work viruses all day long, but spyware is a different beast, and you need special antispyware software to deal with it. To make sure you’re completely protected you need to make sure your computer is protected with both antivirus and antispyware software. The one-two punch of antivirus and antispyware software will go a long way in keeping your computer as free from infection as possible.
Pretty simple stuff, actually. A lot of it is common sense, but keeping those things in mind when you’re browsing the Internet will help keep your computer protected from spyware.