Spyware and Getting Rid of Pop-Up Windows


computer clipartAre you fed up with pop-ups?

One easy way to get rid of pop-ups is by downloading and installing the Yahoo tool bar. Look for the pop-up blocker icon and make sure it is set to block. If you don't particularly want the Yahoo toolbar, there are dedicated programs that will do the job. Try Download.com where you can download all types of programs, some free, some demos.

The Yahoo Toolbar worked fine for me for a long time and then I started getting pop-ups again, even though the toolbar insisted it was blocking them. Call me a prude, but I'm really not interested in half naked women and adverts for Brittannia DVD popping up, unsolicited, all over my computer; in fact I was pretty furious about it. I tried installing a pop-up killer that I downloaded for free from Downloads.com. Unfortunately, this particular program was so efficient at "killing" pop ups, it wouldn't even let me open up Internet Explorer! And then someone reminded me about spyware.

Spyware shouldn't be confused with adware, which is advertising supported software. Some free programs display banner ads to offset the cost of providing the progam free in the first place. To get rid of the ads you simply upgrade to a paid version, and in my view this is entirely legitimate. However, some program designers go further and install spyware, unbeknownst to the user.

Spyware is tracking software that sends information about the user back to the program makers, while the user is connected to the internet. This information might consist of buying habits, email addresses, computer configuration and other personal details which could be of interest to advertisers or even the police or private detectives. And it will make your computer run more slowly because it is taking up bandwidth when you are on the net and it is also using your computer's memory. Its a form of surveilance and if you don't know that its on your computer, then it is spyware. On the other hand, if you know its on your computer, then it isn't spyware. For example, on Easytorecall we have a site that sells data logging software to parents in order for them to keep track of what their children are up to on the net.

Your computer can become "infected" with spyware in a number of ways. It can be an add-on to a program that you have downloaded from the internet, probably for free, but could be shareware or a commercial application. It might be from an email attchment that you opened (inadvisedly - never open an email attachment unless you are expecting it and it is from someone you know and trust. Even if it supposedly comes from a friend, don't open it unless you are sure you know what it is). Another, rather dastardly, way to get spyware on your computer is by something called a drive-by download, whereby a pop-up (or rather a pop-under) window opens when you visit a particular site. This window sits in the background and downloads the offending spyware onto your computer.

In addition to monitoring your personal information, there is spyware whose purpose it is to deliver advertising to you, and is used to generate advertising pop windows on your computer. When you visit a website and pop-us appear, it isn't neccessarily anything to do with that site - it could be the result of spyware on your computer.

And this is what happened to me, although I still don't know how the spyware came to be installed on my computer. But the answer was quick and easy. Ad-aware Standard Edition is a free program from Lavasoft that scans your system for tracking components, i.e. spyware, and gives you the option of removing it. You can download Ad-aware, either by clicking the Download.com link on Lavasoft, or by going there directly from here. Unless you go for one of Lavasoft's paid packages, do remember to scan your computer regularly for spyware and also to update Ad-aware. Its free, so why not? For more free anti spyware products check out our free software - security and cleaning page.

Another program I would like to reccomend is Anti-Spy Info. Unfortunately this costs money - £21.42 the last time I looked, although you can download a free trial to see if you like it. Anti-Spy Info shows all active processes on your computer, rates them according to how potentially dangerous they are and tells you about the relevant security issues. Click a button and you can also go directly to Google to see what others have to say about a particular process if you are unsure what it is. If you are still not sure that you need to remove a particular process, you can just close it down for that session - if everything still works fine, go ahead and remove it next time! The program also allows you to disable keyboard and mouse monitoring and will issue warnings when the registry is changed.

Yes, some programs will actually record any keystrokes you make and send the information back to the program makers, or criminals as they are sometimes referred to. Could be disasterous if you have online banking, so it pays to be careful. A little program I always have running away in the background is WinPatrol, or Scotty the dog, who "woofs" whenever a new program is installed on your computer, giving you the option of not allowing it. Win Patrol basic is free - it will cost you around $30 if you decide to upgrade to the plus version which includes free updates.

Messenger Service Pop ups and how to disable messenger service

messenger service screenshot

Are you plagued by this sort of pop up?

Messenger service is part of windows and was originally designed for use by network administrators.

However, some spammers, such as www.regfixit.com (see screenshot) are able to hijack the messenger service so that you get spam pop up windows appearing on your computer.

We found the following tip at www.theeldergeek.com which has numerous hints and tips on XP related topics. This will get rid of pop ups which have been generated by the use of the messenger service for those of you with XP. Its a similar procedure for users of Windows NT and Windows 2000 - in all cases you can access services from administrative tools.

Please note the messenger service is not the same as MSN, but is used to send messages between networked computers.

Disable Messenger Service

Click Start > Run and type "services.msc" (no quotes) in the Open: line and click OK
(Alternatively, to access services, double-click Administrative Tools in the Control Panel and then double click Services. )
In the right pane, scroll down to Messenger.
Double click Messenger and click the General tab.
Under Service Status: click the Stop button.
In the Startup Type: drop down box, select Disable.
Click Apply and OK.

If you are interested in what these "Services" are, right click any of the listed services and click properties. It provides a description and will tell you, for example, what components are dependent on that service and will allow you to stop the service if you prefer.
This can be very useful. For example, you can turn off windows automatic updates here. To find out more about what Services actually do and how you can control them, just open up Services and click on Help.

One last point (if there is anyone still left!). Some websites use pop-up windows to deliver information you have requested from them. If you do click on something and nothing happens, disable your pop-up blocker for that site and you will probably find that this solves the problem.

I wish you all happy, pop-up free, surfing!


Spyware Removal Tools
SpywareInfo (visit this site to find out the main culprits)


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