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Spyware: Protecting Your Computer and Yourself

What is it?

Spyware is any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without their knowledge. It is generally used for advertising. It is often included within freeware or shareware programs that are downloaded off the Internet.

They are just collecting user information for marketing research. What's wrong with that?

Spyware can invade your privacy. It can monitor keystrokes, scan hard drives, read cookies, install other software, load advertisements, and constantly relay information back and forth to the author of the spyware. It can gather information about email addresses, the users' activities on the Internet, and even passwords and credit card numbers. This information then can be passed along undetected to someone else.

Spyware robs the user of memory resources on their computer. It can make your computer system and browser unstable and cause your system or browser to crash. It can also make your system run slower. It's responsible for a third of all PC crashes.

How can I tell if the program uses spyware?

Often the freeware or shareware contains a licensing agreement indicating that the spyware will be installed along with the software. Sometimes there is a paragraph about this practice somewhere on the software authors website. A good way to tell if you use MS Windows is to go into Add and Remove Programs in Control Panel and check if there isn't a strange new program on your installed list in addition to the program that you meant to install.

If there is an extra program, you may want to uninstall your new programs and find another freeware or shareware program to use instead of the one you just installed. However, spyware does not always install itself as a program. Sometimes it adds itself to your history file. Sometimes it shows up as new MS Explorer button.

OnGuardOnline.gov For more info; read tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.

Secure Root is a directory that covers computer security in ways I never imagined.

Spyware Detection

If you do, you did, or you might have already downloaded spyware or some sort of malware:

Scan and repair your system. Every free program below will either disable, delete or quaratine something bad.

You can use any or all the programs listed below, if you want to double-check your system. Often one program detects entries that the other program missed.

Spybot Search & Destroy is freeware that will detect and remove spyware of different kinds from your computer. It features a system recovery option, in case you make a mistake. It also blocks known spyware downloads with SDHelper, the older version 1.6.2 monitors registry changes with Tea Timer and spyware ActiveX controls with a feature called Immunize. Windows 9X, XP, Vista 32, Windows 7 and 8.

Super AntiSpyware A detection program I downloaded because Adaware and Spy Bot could not see my mom's Win XP RAID hard drive to check for spyware, which for some reason only installed as disk E. This one worked. Normally preforms well under Windows XP, and Vista 32. Took too much start up time load on Win XP system. Eventually in 2009, I decided it was too slow on Vista also. The solution is to change the settings so it starts manually. Like it better than Ad-aware. Still using it in 2013 and again in 2017.

Emsisoft Emergency Kit Free Windows 7, 8, and 10 and DOS command-line scanner that checks PCs for Viruses, Trojans, Spyware, Adware, Worms, Dialers, Keyloggers and other malicious programs.

Malwarebytes 2017-- This free utility is still rated the best at finding and removing malware.

TDSSKiller The number one ant-rootkit detection utility.

Stream Armour Alternate Data Stream (ADS) is the lesser known feature of Windows NTFS file system which provides the ability to put data into existing files and folders without affecting their functionality and size. Where many files are legit, Stream Armour searches for suspicious files that should be removed from your computer.

Advanced Win Service Manager Many programs allow you to easily edit windows services but this free program identifies which services you may want to investigate further because you may have been hacked or the utility may have been deleted while updating drivers. Identified 2 empty files under services. Run your computer for a long time with the service disabled before deleting the service in question just to be sure.

Spyware Prevention

All free spyware prevention software programs listed under this heading work fine with most antivirus software

Spyware Blaster is freeware that prevents the installation of any spyware ActiveX controls from a webpage. It does this while not interfering with "friendly" ActiveX controls - so your browser can work correctly and you can have peace of mind. Window 9x, XP and Vista 32, 7, 8, and 10.

MJ RegWatcher keeps an eye on registry changes. Close this utility when adding or deleting a program.

Unchecky is a freeware utility that warns you and eliminates unwanted software bundled with the free software you actually want. An awesome malware and adware defender.

Host Files

instructions and examples

Easily Edit the Hosts File in Windows 10 The easiest directions written for editing a host file. Do not attempt to follow the dirctions below without having a copy of your current host file on your desktop.

Blocking Unwanted Parasites Posted for informational purposes only. For many years before Adblock in 2013 this was the only info on using the Windows host file to protect your PC. A guide for setting up Internet Explorer Options for maximum security though not maximum use of the Internet... Microsoft's default settings are OK for most users. A large host file will slow down your computer and host files need to updated. Warning if you goof and screwup a step you may trash your computer. The advatage of using host files is Hosts file will apply for all software running on the system.

FilterLists a comprehensive directory of subscription lists to block advertisements, malware, trackers, and other general annoyances used by Adblock, uBlock 1Blocker (Safari adblocker) and Adawy (an android blocker).

Free System-wide Adblocking without Adguard Advice on which blocking file to add to host file. Use the directions posted at Easily Edit the Hosts File in Windows 10 to edit host file. List filters which can be added to either Adblock Plus or uBlock Origin and which filters to advoid.

Browser Add ons that automatically update what would go in a host file

The more people that use a browser the more advertisers will target that browser. Pick one adblocker add-on below.

Adblock Plus add-on for Mozilla Firefox (including Firefox for mobile[10]), Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge (beta version), Opera, Safari, Yandex Browser and Android. Uses lists that use to found in your host file to block ads, malware, disable tracking, and disable social media buttons. Like in the Windows host file, too many lists will cause your browser to slow down.

uBlock Origin add-on for Safari (Beta), Chrome, Chromium, Edge, Firefox, and Opera. is a new malware blocker that also blocks ads, similar to Ad-Block that uses less memory so it runs faster unless you tell it to use too many or too long of a list.

Anti-KeyLogging

KeyScrambler Compatible with 61 browsers. Protects against keylogging by encrypting your keystrokes at the keyboard and decrypting the keystrokes at the destination. Windows 2003 +, 32.

Zemana AntiLogger, the last free version AntiLoggerFree_Setup_1.8.2.320.exe is downloadable from Major Geeks August 2017. Tech Spot may be another download link to try. Figures... When I finally learn about a really great anti-keylogger freware product, the company discontinues the free version. If you are lucky enough to download the last free June 20, 2017 version, make sure you check the Never check for updates box in the Update tab, under Settings. Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 32 bit.

Cookie Managers

Network Advertising Imitative cookies to opt out of major internet advertiser's cookies.

IE Cookie View freeware that helps manage cookies with Internet Explorer. Lets you keep the ones you want and delete the rest of them. Configurable as a standalone program or an IE button. The downside is that this program slows down IE.

Cookie-AutoDelete is a Firefox and Chrome Self Destructing Cookies Firefox replacement. Add-on: Loads all cookies so webpages work and then deletes cookies when you close Firefox or Chrome. Since installing Self Destructing Cookies in Firefox, I've had 0 infections detected by Super AntiSpyware in 5 years. Cookie-AutoDelete works with Firefox 53+.

How to clear and disable DOM Storage in Firefox, IE and Chrome explains how to keep your computer more private. DOM storage (Document Object Model) is a larger type of cookie that may store much on your hard drive.

CCleaner has a setting usually turned on by default to manually delete Flash cookies (LSOs). Under the Applications tab, scroll down to the Multimedia heading and ensure Adobe Flash Player is checked. Remember to run Cleaner to get rid of LSOs after you close your browser for the day.

Test an alternative free Internet browser.

CoolPCTips wrote quite a few articles comparing the different most popular browsers.

List of Best Free Internet Browsers Lists, sumerizes and links to 120 free browsers. People have so many options on how to veiw and navigate the World Wide Web.

Maxthon

Maxthon 5 2017; automatically searches with Google SSL. Has Adblock preinstalled, but just the Easy list. Use Maxathon because how it uses sandboxing for downloads and the free version of CCleaner must be downloaded manually. Like every other browser Maxthon has Do Not Track. What makes Maxthon different is Do Not Track default setting is turned on. Spam and junk e-mail protection and a password manager. Collect and organize offline info from the web. Runs fast, JavaScript, and Flash unlike Firefox work without extra tweaks. Can import bookmarks and passwords but cannot export them to another browser. Tried adding their search engine addons, but prefer to bookmark Smatterings: Search Engines under Favorites and search from Smatterings collection of secure search engines or doing my searches with Firefox.

Chrome

Chrome 2017, Google Docs dictate to speech feature which are free apps, work better than Microsoft Cortana. (Apple has the best dicttate tor word editor app, but Apple stuff only works on Apple and I never could afford one.) Never imagined that I'd ever list Chrome as fast, the most secure and a high standards-compliant browser. Never liked how easy it is to install this browser accidently when installing other free software. I suspect Google's cloud syncing across multiple hardware platforms you lose your privacy and confidentiality. Can import Firefox bookmarks but no luck on imorting passwords. Chrome has a disclaimer written next to its Do Not Track setting. That seems--well unsecure. 2017 version boasts of built-in malware and phishing protection, auto-updates focused on vulnerability patching, safe browsing API (a SafetyNet for checking a URL), sandboxing, JavaScript JIT (JustInTime speed up engine) hardening, and plug-in make it the security winner. Comes with built-in flash and a pdf viewer, uses many Firefox plugins plus some of its own, and has a 64-bit Windows version.

IE (Internet Explorer) came in second on the most secure browser race of 2017. IE is installed on a PC when Windows is installed.

Firefox

Firefox held the title as the most secure browser for many years. Use it for searches because it has the easiest system for telling the browser which secure web search I want use to search the Internet. Firefox was really slow about releasing a 64 bit version, which is why spinoff versions exist. They were the only 64 bit Firefox options in 2013. Version 43 in 2015 was the first official Firefox 64 Browser. They all come with a built-in popup stopper, active x control, and other antispyware defenses. As of May 2008, Foxfire 2 had way more protection add-ons than Microsoft Explorer 7. Windows XP Vista 32. By 2013 Firefox 19 has many more excellent security add-ons. Pale Moon is 64 bit version for Windows compatible with many more add-ons. When I tried it it was not compatible with Wordpress 3.8. Waterfox is compatible with Wordpress and 64 bit, but cannot migrate Firefox passwords. Cyberfox is compatible was the easiest to migrate passwords and bookmarks to and from Firefox, and let me work with Word Press.

Copy and paste add on titles to the search box on top of Firefox's spin off browser version and search for addon to ensure compatibility. Sometimes when an add-on becomes incompatible with your browser upgrade, the author rewrites his program and the add-in becomes compatible later. When Firefox decided to implement a new add-on standard effective November 2017. Firefox versions like its parent Netscape are written and supported by volunteers, so it is a hardship for some programmers with big hearts who wrote exstention for free, to help protect people from crimminals to be forced to rewrite their code. Many discontinued their apps. Some younger cyber heroes stepped up and wrote compliant replacements. Tune in in a year or 2; perhaps a new contender will bring Internet browsing to new levels.

Browser Security Add-ons

WOT Web of Trust: Chrome, Firefox, Android, Opera, Safari and IE add-on that protects against vendors, spam, spyware and viruses. Much safer browsing in XP, Vista and Windows 7.

Force-TLS and HTTPS-Everywhere are free Firefox add-ons that force the browser to use encryption on popular websites that usually aren't encrypted. Force-TLS tested to work faster on Firefox 64. New Firefox versions now do this without the addons.

Ghostery IE, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Safari detects and blocks tracking technologies to speed up page loads, eliminate clutter, and protect your data. Disconnect Basic is an alternative to Ghostery for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

Dephormation Pale Moon, SeaMonkey and Ice Weasel reinstates your opt out preference cookie with every page load, and randomizes your OIX UID cookie to prevent tracking. Even if you delete all your cookies, after the next web page is loaded, your opt out cookies are immediately restored.

Yes Script Blocks known bad JavaScript in Firefox. Allows you to add to the list when necessary. Least intrusive of all the Firefox Java blockers.

FlagFox is a Firefox extension that displays a flag icon indicating the current webserver's physical location.

Search Engine Security helps protect against fake AV pages, fake videos and other malicious spam in Firefox, Explorer and Chrome.

Go onto

Security Utilities Nobody Warned Me About or to Smatterings Antivirus Utilities page




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