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Nix pesky cyber spies [leaving your computer unshaken and unstirred…]

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For the regular Joes and Josephinas amongst us, encounters with 007-style super-spies or shifty-eyed, trench-coated baddies ain’t part of our day-to-day lives. But if you’re the proud owner of a computer, you do need to be vigilant for cyber spyware.

Spyware is lurking everywhere on the interwebs. Its mission: to infect your computer. Knowing what to look out for is your best counterattack – Intel can show you how…

I’ve heard of spyware, but what is it?

Spyware is sneaky software that tricks you into installing it on your computer. Once installed, it secretly gathers information about you and shares it with interested parties – minus your knowledge or consent. Rude!

Screen savers, computer wallpapers, and those packages of little smiley icons are commonly rife with spyware.

Different types of spyware behave in different ways. However, they’re consistently deceptive and involve assuming a degree of control over your computer.

Out of sight, out of mind?

Spyware’s much more than just a shifty inconvenience. At a minimum, it slows down your computer’s performance. At its most foul, it can redirect your browser to places you don’t want it to go – sites that are offensive or not kiddie-friendly. But wait, there’s more. A lot of spyware is built to steal personal information, which can lead to identity theft. Spyware can even send you to a fake banking site and steal your login details.

By now you’re probably eyeing your PC warily. There’s no reason to be afraid of computers, but it’s important to know what you’re dealing with. And the great news is that if you know what to look for, spyware’s actually pretty easy to avoid.

Start by being suspicious – verrrrry suspicious – of everything you might want to install on your computer. And we do mean everything. Microsoft Windows will tell you when it detects software that’s attempting an install, and will ask for your permission to continue. However, it can’t tell if what you’re about to install is a piece of spyware, so beware. Common spyware hooks include: downloadable free games; ‘Congratulations! You Win!’ banners; smiley icons; downloadable animated icons; and screensaver downloads.

The bottom line? Don’t download crapola you don’t really need, like toolbars, smiley icons, screensavers, wallpaper, and those little weather widgets. And if you can’t live without online games, why not opt for the web version rather than the downloadable type?

Help! My computer is already affected!

If any of the above sounds like stuff currently sitting on your computer, spyware may already have taken up residence. Not to worry – many excellent tools can help you nix it. But, don’t let your guard down just yet. A common hiding place for spyware is – you guessed it – fake spyware removal products.

Many commercial anti-virus and internet security products now include spyware scanning and removal, so first check the documentation for the protection software you already have installed (and if you don’t have any, drop what you’re doing and purchase a good anti-virus, firewall, and anti-spyware suite post-haste). There are also honest-to-goodness free tools that do work. For a wealth of legit spyware-removal software, visit Download’s spyware removers page

Good luck and happy spyware hunting

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