How To Remove Dangerous Software

SpywareEven if you’re one of the most anal people in the world (like me, who likes to hear a satisfying “click” sound before considering a lock officially ‘locked’) sooner or later you’re bound to have at least several nasty little programs on your computer.

Some of these clever malware programs lie hidden, silently building up a collection of data on you that would make even your mother blush. Others are simply waiting for the right moment to strike… and when they choose, can unleash terrible destruction in milliseconds.

Keep your rig healthy by doing a comprehensive set of scans at least once every three months, because checking out the wrong websites, installing the wrong software, or opening the wrong e-mails can infect your computer (yes, even sometimes with so-called “reputable” companies like Sony.)

These electronic cooties can quickly drag down a PC’s performance and they can even allow thieves access to your personal data.

Four Steps To Cleanse Your Computer of Spyware, Adware, Virii, Trojans, and Particularly Tricky Things Called “Rootkits”

Step 1. Do a once-over good ol’fashioned virus scan – AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is our favorite virus scanner. It picks up a lot of the stuff other scanners miss and also lets you run it “cleanly” without having a lot of junk running in the background hogging your system like Norton Anti-virus and McAfee do. After you install it, do the online update right away so it can recognize the ugly, new faces of the latest virii (viruses) otherwise it won’t catch the stuff that just came out last week.

AVG Antivirus

Do a comprehensive scan of your entire computer; AVG will scour your system and advise you about any malicious software. If any of those kinds of programs are detected, AVG will prompt you to remove the threats.

Step 2. Now go after the Spyware and Adware – Spyware nestles in a system, takes evil little notes about what you do and typically tries to send that information to someone else. Spyware can range from logging your web habbits to stealing your passwords and credit card data. Adware is similar software that usually shoves pop-up ads in your face while you try to browse websites, but it can also record your actions without your knowledge for transmission back to the mother ship.

Ad Aware

Both kinds of malware may be detected by an anti-virus program, but we recommend specialized tools to be 100% sure culprits are located and removed. For the best protection out there, go get Spybot – Search and Destroy and Ad-aware. Both are free, and using first Spybot and then Ad-aware increases your odds of bagging all the threats. Be sure to do full system scans with both programs, especially the first time you run them.

Step 3. Weed out the rootkits – Rootkits are programs that have unfettered access to your computer’s operating system at the root level, without your say-so. They’re not always malicious (there are legit reasons for some applications to install similar software) but poorly designed ones can still leave your PC vulnerable to attack. Some rootkits even come from (formerly) trusted sources, like the 2005 Sony BMG copy protection software that automatically installed with audio CDs, which was notoriously difficult to remove and left countless systems open to attackers.

F Secure Blacklight

Rootkits may be detected by virus software, but don’t you dare take the chance; try F-secure Blacklight to illuminate these hidden culprits. Be sure to get the graphical user interface version of the program as opposed to the command line interface version. Then run the program and do a full scan.

Step 4. Lastly, set up a firewall on your computer – A firewall is software that acts like a traffic cop between the internet and your PC. It can prevent thieves and perverts from accessing your computer and its files. Best of all, they’re a snap to use.

If you have Microsoft Windows Vista (or maybe WindowsXP) you can enable the built-in Windows Firewall by going to Start->Control Panel and finding it there.

Zone Alarm

Alternatively, you can always get the best free firewall out there, called ZoneAlarm. Just go to their website and download the free version (they make it a little difficult to do by asking you multiple times if you’re really sure you want the free version instead of the paid version, but honestly the free one is excellent – no need to throw money out the door over a bit of confusion.) Once you have it installed, the default settings should be fine, but if you have trouble with it restricting access to some of your favorite programs, that can easily be fixed in the settings.

Doing these four steps at least once every three months should keep your computer in good shape and keep the bad guys out there from getting a good crack at your system. Once you’ve been given a clean bill of health, you can leave them to run in the background to protect your system in real-time from whatever the script kiddies throw at you next.

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