Inside Spyware: Part Four

In part three, we started talking about the different ways you can prevent spyware and adware from infesting your computers. Here we continue the discussion and offer handy resources, too.

Blocking Pop-Up Ads

One way to avoid the potential danger lurking behind pop-up ads is to install software that blocks and prevents them from appearing in the first place. Many ISPs offer tools to stop pop-ups from appearing. The Mozilla and Firefox Web browsers do not allow pop-ups. Even the Google Toolbar, which we discussed earlier, will block pop-up ads.

Microsoft added pop-up blocking to its Internet Explorer browser with Windows XP Service Pack 2. The Service Pack also includes an updated Windows firewall and patches some holes exploited by hackers and worms.

Microsoft also has made these instructions available on how to set Internet Explorer in Windows XP Professional to block pop-ups. You can read them here:

You can find all kinds of programs that block pop-up advertisements. Before installing them, research the developer and the company to make sure they are legitimate. Also be sure to note how they affect your system. Some pop-up blockers may discourage new windows — such as instant messages being sent to you — from opening.

Windows Messenger Pop-Ups
One form of pop-up with potentially dangerous effects is that’s spam sent using the Windows Messaging feature in Windows XP. We don’t mean the instant messaging software used by millions of people, but rather an administrative tool that systems administrators use to contact people on their networks.

While utilities that claim to stop such pop-ups exist, you can easily disable the Windows Messenger feature. Here’s how:

In Windows XP go to Start/Control Panel/Administrative Tools. Double-click Services. Double-click Messenger. In the Startup-type list, choose Disabled. Click Stop, and then click OK.

ISPs and Spyware Prevention
The largest consumer Internet service providers (ISPs) have added spyware protection in the latest versions of their software to help keep consumers safe from online pests.

Once upon a time, it was anti-spam tools to help keep the e-mail inboxes of their subscribers clean. Now the attention had shifted to spyware. As with most ISP features, there is little to differentiate the spyware protection offerings among the major ISPs.

Microsoft’s MSN ISP offers McAfee Security’s anti-virus and personal firewall services as part of MSN Premium subscription service for broadband users in the United States.

MSN Premium subscribers receive McAfee VirusScan and McAfee Personal Firewall Plus desktop-protection services as part of their subscription to MSN Premium. MSN Plus and MSN Dial-Up Internet Access subscribers can access trial versions of the services and purchase them through the MSN site.

McAfee Personal Firewall Plus helps prevent potential hackers and other Internet threats from entering and infecting your PCs by acting as a protective barrier between the PC and the Internet.

EarthLink unveiled spyware protection in October 2003. Its Spyware Blocker works just like some of the freeware removal programs, such as Spybot S&D. EarthLink subscribers choose when to run the program. It then detects and removes all common forms of spyware from their computer, including adware, system monitors, keyloggers, and Trojan horses.

America Online
AOL introduced AOL Spyware Protection as part of its 9.0 Optimized software. The product is actually software from Aluria Software, which makes Spyware Eliminator, pop-up stoppers and optimizers. Unlike EarthLink, the AOL Spyware Protection automatically scans your computer once a week.

Members also can manually initiate a spyware/adware scan by clicking on the AOL Spyware Protection icon on their desktop, or they can set up automatic spyware scans at more regular intervals, such as daily/weekly or at a specific day and time. AOL regularly updates the Spyware Protection database to help members find and disable the latest spyware and adware applications.

Spyware Prevention Software

Much like anti-virus software that scans e-mail attachments as you go, some anti-spyware software packages aim to keep you safe as you surf. Many of these programs will detect cookies from advertisements or Web sites that may be helpful, so once again their effectiveness depends on your tolerance and how you use the software.

Spyware prevention software includes:

Secure Computing
By keeping up with the latest security patches and service packs, you will be plugging holes in your Windows operating system that could be used by malicious programs. Many people prefer to control their online privacy and don’t like Microsoft’s Automatic Updates feature. If that’s true for you, a visit to will keep you up to date with the security patches your computer needs.

Many organizations already employ firewalls that are all but unseen to their computer-using employees. Personal firewalls are also a good way to stop malicious computers and programs from contacting your system.

Microsoft Windows XP includes the Internet Connection Firewall. When enabled, it prevents would-be hackers from scanning your computer’s ports and resources — including file and printer shares. It will also prevent RATs from contacting other computers if they are on your system. Enabling the firewall was essential to stopping the Blaster virus of 2003 and is also recommended for stopping Messenger Spam. To enable the Windows XP Internet Connection Firewall:

In Windows XP go to Start/Control Panel. Click Network and Internet Connections. Click Network Connections. Right-click your Internet connection, and then click Properties. Click the Advanced tab of your connection’s Properties dialog box. Check the box next to “Protect my computer and network by limiting or preventing access to this computer from the Internet.”

Firewall software includes:

More Spyware, Adware and Trojan Resources

Adapted from

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Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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