Key features of a good spyware removal program

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If you're a regular surfer of the web, chances are you've come across a very annoying (and potentially dangerous) thing called spyware.  Spyware, a cousin of viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and other malware, is a type of malicious code that often arrives as a hidden download.  Once on your computer, spyware can send information about you to spammers and cause annoying pop-up ads to appear, all measures that slow your computer down, cause a nuisance, and expose your sensitive information.
Dozens of pop-up ads covering a desktop.

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It's important to have a good antispyware program installed on your computer.  A good one will keep your system free and clear of the security threats posed by spyware.  But every antispyware application is different; some are higher-quality than others. 

Here's a simple checklist of things to consider when you purchase an antispyware program, offered by an experienced tech savvy webmaster;

Non-intrusive execution

Some antispyware programs make you more aware of their presence than you'd like them to.  Some signs of an intrusive program are constant pop-up notifications, asking you to install toolbars and other programs (or automatically doing so without your express permission), or changing your home page or regularly-used search engine.

No good antispyware program will be that dismissive of your personal preferences.  It's there to do one job: to make your web-browsing experience more worry-free, not burden you by taking over your browser or trying to change the way you do things.

No attached programs or spyware

It sounds terribly ironic, but it's true.  Sometimes when you download an antispyware program, you're faced with the possibility of spyware coming with it.  Some antispyware programs are in fact spyware programs in disguise, and can cause the types of behavior mentioned above!  For this reason, one might be more comfortable ordering the software by mail rather than downloading it, or to only go with an established name-brand program.

Real-time protection

It's good to know you can fire up a scan for spyware whenever you choose, or to have automatic scans scheduled.  But it's even better to know that you're being protected in real-time as you browse the web.  Real-time protection means you can rest easy from fear of sudden spyware attacks or downloads. This preemptive, constant watchfulness gives you the peace of mind that any good security software should.

Regular, automatic updates

Even the best security software needs to stay current and up-to-date in order to recognize and deal with new, unrecognized threats.  This is often accomplished through automatic updates.  A regular feature of any good antispyware software, automatic updating will help you stay protected well into the future.

Deep scanning capabilities

Spyware doesn't always infect your computer in the most common areas.  Trouble-making spyware can find its way into commonly used folders where you keep your pictures, music, documents, and of course, downloads.  But spyware can also affect much more vulnerable areas of your operating system, including your registry and system folders.  Once hidden there, it's often difficult to find and can be devastating.  A good spyware removal program will thoroughly search registries and system folders to make sure your system is free and clear of infections.

Customizable levels of protection

There are times you might want a high level of protection.  For example, if you're making a series of purchases online and entering your credit card information, you would want to be protected from any malware that can "spy" on your keystrokes.  On other occasions, you might want a lower level of security.  If you're watching movies or videos online for instance, you might want to turn live updating or heuristics off so that you don't see any distracting pop-up alerts. 

In either case, you should seek out a program that allows you to change security levels and modify specific settings to suit your needs.

Live and email technical support

With any security software, technical support is a great resource for help.  Should you have any questions or concerns about how to use the program most efficiently, or if there's ever a problem with running the program itself, a responsive tech support staff will get you up and running quickly.  Access by email is often frustrating for those of us who want a fast response and tech support, making a live support line is an important bonus.

The truth is, going with a reputable virus protection and spyware removal service is certainly worth the investment--your privacy deserves the highest level of security you can provide. The best security program, ultimately, will be one that protects your privacy, your identity and your peace of mind. Happy (and secure) surfing!

For more information and tips on how to have a happy (and secure) web surfing experience, see: computer security.

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