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Is Your Computer Hot? Protecting against Hotbar

Spyware is one of the most controversial programs circulating today.  Hence the name, this software has the ability to spy on your computer activities and report that information back to another source.  Spyware has received a bad reputation as many individuals have used these programs with malicious intent, installing them without user knowledge or consent and stealing personal information.  However, spyware is used legitimately at well.  This occurs when administrators monitor the internet activity of staff members or when parents monitor their children's behavior to learn who they are chatting with online.  Adware, a variation of spyware, is also prevalent in today's programming as several developers running advertising campaigns and affiliate programs use it to freely distribute their software. 

What is Hotbar? 

Hotbar is a program that has been showing up on the computer's of thousands of users.  According to the developer's website, this software enhances a user's internet experience by personalizing email applications and sites they visit.  Hotbar is used by many people to add colorful themes and smiley faces to their Internet Explorer toolbar and email messages.  While this software is rather useful, there are three important factors you need to be aware of:

1.  Hotbar is classified as adware/spyware software.  It monitors all of the web sites you visit on the internet.  This is done to collect data regarding your interest and habits, which leads to pop-up ads along with new buttons and advertisements in your toolbar. 

2.  The Hotbar program is automatically updated from the site's database without your approval.  The updates may consist of new features able to bypass the security and privacy of settings your applications and how it gathers data about you. 

3.  Contrary to the way this software is often presented, Hotbar is not an official Microsoft upgrade for Internet Explorer or their Outlook email application. 

Detecting Hotbar

There are various ways to know if the Hotbar program is installed on your computer.  You can began by taking note of the following steps:

- Open your Internet Explorer web browser.  If you notice a series of gold buttons on the Internet Explorer homepage for categories such as "People Search" "Job Search", "Chat" etc., Hotbar is installed

- Open your Outlook or Outlook Express application.  If notice a series of silver buttons for categories such as "Backgrounds", "eCards" and "Animation", Hotbar is installed. 

- If you send an email to someone and one or a series of "smiley face" advertisements are appended to the message, Hotbar is installed.  If someone sends you a message with a similar advertisement appended, they probably have Hotbar installed on their computer.

Removing Hotbar

You can remove the Hotbar program by following these instructions:

1.  From your desktop screen, click "Start", "Settings" and then select "Control Panel"

2.  Select "Add/Remove Programs" 

3.  Select "Web Tools by Hotbar" and click the "Add/Remove" tab at the lower right of the window

4.  Check the box for "Browser" and "Email toolbars"

5. Click the "Uninstall" button

Sometimes, the Hotbar program will not uninstall entirely and returns after a system reboot.  When this occurs, anti-spyware software may be your only option for completely removing it.  

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Identity theft comes in many forms.

A person\92s identity can be 'borrowed' for the purpose of creating fictional credit cards or a person\92s entire identity can be usurped to the point where they can have difficulty proving that they really are who they claim to be.

Up to 18% of identity theft victims take as long as four years to realize that their identity has been stolen.

There are many ways to protect your personal identity and many steps you can take to prevent your identity from being stolen:

*Never give out unnecessary personal information
*Never provide bank details or social security numbers over the Internet
*Always remain aware of who is standing behind you when you type in your personal credit codes at ATM machines and at supermarket checkout swipe machines.