Why do I get spyware in my computer?

The main reason for many spyware infections is that some program has entered your PC either by your own negligence or some type of trickery.

Here are a few things to look out for so as to remain safe when browsing and downloading.

Custom installs

When installing downloaded software such as an update to Java (which you should keep up to date) the installer screen often provides a ‘quick install’ or ‘custom install’. Don’t be tempted by the quick route as this often installs other programs or toolbars you didn’t want. It’s only when you take the custom install route that you see those options.

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Note from the example here the screenshot from a Java update install. The Java installer wants to install the Ask toolbar. This is clearly spyware and will infect your computer and add toolbars and change your search provider. Just untick the box to proceed normally.

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In this example you are updating your Flash player and again it wants to install McAfee scanner. You didn’t ask for that so untick the box before proceeding. Of course in this case McAfee is not spyware but it is unwanted and best avoided.

Browser clean-up

Supposing you have fallen foul of the above trickery and you want to get back to normal. First you must uninstall each unwanted program via the Control Panel. In XP it’s Add/remove Programs, in Vista, W7 and W8 it’s programs & Features.

However even though the infected part may be removed your browser may still be affected. How so? Your home page and your search engine will still be left pointing to the sites changed by the spyware. These have to be corrected manually. Here’s how.

As there are a few browsers on the market I will deal with the main 3 in turn so select yours as appropriate. If you have more than one browser installed you will need to follow the steps for each as the spyware will infect all browsers installed.

Internet Explorer:

In Internet Explorer go to Tools> Internet Options (or the small cog wheel icon on the top right toolbar.
On the General tab, the start page (or home page) is shown. Change that to what you originally had such as www.google.co.uk
On the Security tab, if the bottom button ‘reset all zones to default level’ is available click it.
On the Advanced tab, click ‘Restore Advanced settings’
On the Programs tab, click Manage add-ons. In here you will have to search for and remove any options you recognise as unwanted, leave them if you’re not sure. In the Search Providers section (left panel), remove any references to Ask or My Websearch etc., just leaving your favourite ones such as Google, Yahoo etc. Finally click Close and OK to exit the settings.

Google Chrome:

Click the 4 bars icon on top right of toolbar. Then select Settings.
Under the Appearance section you can opt to change your Home page.
Under the Search section you can choose the Search engine you prefer such as Google. Also click ‘Manage Search Engines’ to remove the unwanted ones.
Now click the Extensions option in the left panel and remove any references to the spyware names you recognise.

Firefox (Mozilla)

In Firefox click the Firefox menu (top left) or Tools> Options.
On the General tab, change any altered Home page address to what you prefer.
Click OK when done.
Now go to the same Firefox menu again but choose ‘Add Ons’ then Extensions.
Remove any of these that are unwanted especially those you recognise as spyware names. You can do the same with ‘Plugins’. Close the tab page with the X.
Now in your search box click the small arrow next to the search engine name i.e. Ask.
This is next to the logo of the search company. When clicked, you will see ‘Manage Search Engines’. Click that. Remove any unwanted search links and be sure the one you want to use is set as ‘Default’.

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