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.
That said it would serve you well to have a diligent antispyware program installed. Trouble is --many of us are unsure what programs work best. 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, some are easier to manage than others, and some programs--well, let's just say, aren't exactly what you might think they are.
Here's a simple checklist of things to consider when you purchase an antispyware program.
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.
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! Rogue security software a/k/a "scareware" might report a virus, even though your computer is actually clean. The software might also fail to report viruses when your computer is infected. It sounds terribly ironic, but it's true. It might generate erroneous or misleading alerts, or attempt to lure users into participating in fraudulent transactions. For this reason, it's key that you always do your research before downloading any software program.
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.
Antispyware programs rely on lists of defined spyware threats in order to judge what to alert you to and what to target for deletion. But sometimes, due to the rate such threats are issued and various levels of success the creators have in hiding them, those spyware definitions are missing. This is where a strong heuristics engine comes in. As the "brain" of a great antispyware program, it watches for new patterns in your file system that are similar to the changes spyware would make, such as sudden modifications to the registry or system files or changes to certain programs. A good spyware removal program will recognize which types of changes are suspicious and will promptly alert you to such activity.
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 good, but for those wanting a fast response and thorough interaction with support, a live support line (either through instant messaging or telephone) is better. In my opinion, having access to remote tech support ---that's even better.
I continue to hear from people who feel their out of their league when it comes to knowing how to properly secure their smartphones, computers and tablets. The thing is --the average person doesn't have the time or desire to learn about the latest threats of; Malware, Trojans or Trojan Horses, Worms, Scareware, Spyware, Adware, Keyloggers, Rootkit, or infected app and latest virus. Think about it. Finding the appropriate combination of security software, (that doesn't conflict with each other) screams COMPLICATED and burdensome. Because it is to anyone who isn't an expert.
A wise person once said; it's the simple things that make us smile. My hope is that as technology progresses, security software programmers will remember ---there's a lot to be said for simplicity.
All in all, be sure research the various name-brand antispyware and antimalware programs to be sure they have all the features that you want. The best security experience, ultimately, will be one that suits your particular needs based on the level of your tech-knowledge and skills.
If you have discovered the key to happy (and secure) surfing---let me know. Your response may be included in an upcoming survey on cyber security awareness.
To avoid the threat of downloading malware laced apps on smartphones, be sure to read a few earlier blogs.