Last Thanksgiving, when I should have been busy cooking a turkey, and getting the house ready for company, I found myself, instead, obsessing over the fact that my computer seemed to have been possessed. I was battling against popups, advertisements, and my Internet Explorer homepage being re-set to some site I certainly didnt choose. I know exactly how this assault occurred. I was trying to figure out who sang some song that Id just heard on the radio, and in my rush to get the answer quickly from a website, I accidentally clicked yes on one of those do you want to install and run
boxes that sometimes come up. Im a computer professional, and I KNOW Im supposed to say NO when one of these comes up, but in my haste I got careless and hit the wrong button. Things started being installed and within a matter of minutes, my computer was, basically, hijacked
being used as an advertisers dream.
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For those of you who dont know what sypware and adware are:
Spyware is any application that makes changes to your computer while collecting information about your computer activities. This information may then be sent to a third party for malicious purposes, without your knowledge or consent. Spyware arrives bundled with freeware or shareware, through e-mail or instant messenger, or by someone with access to your computer. Once on your drive, spyware secretly installs itself and goes to work. Advanced spyware may be very difficult to detect, and difficult (if not impossible) for the average user to remove. One of the more annoying traits of spyware is changing your Internet browsers homepage setting.
Adware is advertising-supported software that displays popup advertisements. The software usually comes to you bundled in a free download from the Internet, and it is the advertisements that create revenue for the company. Adware can install components onto your computer that track personal information (including your age, gender, location, buying preferences, surfing habits, etc.). Most advertising supported software doesn't come right out and inform you that it installs adware on your system, although there might be a reference buried somewhere in a license agreement. In many cases, the software will not function without the adware component.
So there I was on that Thanksgiving Day, thoroughly unhappy with my computer, and acting like an obsessed lunatic! I quickly ran the two free programs I already had on my computer. Spybots Search & Destroy, and AOLs free spyware product. Both products do a fine job, but neither one could help me that day. Apparently, whichever nasty spyware or adware program got to me that day was immune to both of those products.
So, I realized that for a change I might have to actually pay for a program this time. Gasp! This is not something I take lightly, but I was in panic mode. The turkey still needed to be stuffed! I read quick reviews on a few of the products, and decided to go for Webroots Spy Sweeper. I paid around $30, and downloaded it immediately. Well, let me tell you, it saved my Thanksgiving Holiday! It was easy to use, and most importantly, it restored my computer back to its healthy ad-free state!
I signed up for the two year subscription (meaning two years of free pattern and program updates), and Ive used it constantly ever since. It starts automatically when Windows starts, and runs minimized at the bottom of my screen. It pops up occasionally to let me know its still there, constantly on the job protecting my system, and even reminds me to download the program and pattern updates.
The main menu consists of the following items:
You can run a sweep on your computer at any time. Running a sweep means that Spy Sweeper looks for patterns that indicate spyware or adware and removes them. Initially, it quarantines the item, making it inoperable, but permitting you to restore it if you find you need it to continue using another program.
Once you find that you do not need the quarantined items, you can permanently remove them.
After you run a sweep, you can view the results. Spy Sweeper keeps the results from the last sweep as well as a log of all recent Spy Sweeper activity.
You can view the quarantined items here, and permanently delete them, once youre sure that you dont need them anymore.
This is where Spy Sweeper pays for itself!
Shields are continuously running monitoring programs. Stuff that runs in the background protecting you full-time. You can choose which shields to activate. (I have them ALL running!). When a shield detects a possibly unwanted activity, it halts the activity, sends an alert to the screen, and asks you whether to allow the activity or not. Even if I perform the activity myself (say I change my homepage, or install some new software that writes to the registry) the alert pops up before allowing the change to take place, and gives me a moment to say "Yes - this is something I really want to do".
The shields that are available have to do with:
* Internet Explorer changes (change to the homepage, to favorites, to search engines, or to advanced settings)
* Windows System changes (programs that install themselves or change the registry)
* Any attempt to change the Hosts file (The Hosts file is a Windows file that helps direct your computer to a web site using Internet Protocol addresses. Your Web browser uses the IP address to figure out where to connect you when you type in a web address.)
* Any changes to your startup programs (those programs that start automatically when Windows starts)
You can control a number of options that direct the software how to sweep and protect your computer.
When Spy Sweepers shields detect potentially dangerous activity, very detailed information about the activity gets written to the Alerts area.
The News area provides you with the latest tips, tricks, and information available about spyware and adware protection.
Extensive on-line help about the product.
Displays information about your version of the program, your serial number, and expiration date, if you sign up for a one or two year subscription.
Bottom line: This program saved my holiday and is still protecting me to this day. I highly recommend this program - its well worth the few bucks, for my peace of mind!
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