Spyware Prevention: How Do I Block Spyware From My Computer?

Given the security threats of spyware, you're probably wondering how to protect your computer from spyware downloading itself and causing so much annoyance and damage. As with everything else, the best method of protection against spyware is prevention! Here are some simple ways you can prevent spyware from finding its way onto your computer:

Know What You're Installing

One of the most common-sense ways to avoid downloading and installing spyware is to pay attention to what you're installing! When you go to download a program, especially if it's freeware, ask yourself if you know the source of the program. If you do, ask yourself if you trust its publishers. Reputable software producers avoid including spyware whenever possible. If they do include spyware with their programs, they normally provide you with an option to opt out of "extras." This usually happens during the installation process. If given this choice, you should opt out. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If there's anything in a license agreement says something about transmitting information to a third party - watch out! It might be spyware.

Read What You Click

Another obvious and simple way to avoid spyware is to read what you click! Unfortunately, though this is such an important and easy step to take in spyware prevention, people often get in the habit of just clicking "Ok" without looking to see what they're agreeing to. Spyware publishers count on this habit when you go to install freeware that their spyware is packaged with. They hope you won't read the licensing agreement that says their spyware is included. They also may try to get their spyware on your computer by bombarding you with pop-up messages when you go to infected websites. The same principle applies here. So know what you're agreeing to before your click "Ok."

Install a Firewall

Firewalls are programs that filter data coming in and going out of your computer by way of the internet. They act as gatekeepers in that they only let authorized data into and out of your system. When you install a new program (like spyware) and it connects to the internet for the first time, the firewall will warn you that it's trying to connect, and it will ask your permission for the new program to do so. This way, even if you install spyware without knowing it, you'll be warned that something new is trying to exchange information over the internet. Because the firewall will not let it do so without your permission, you'll be safe from spyware sending out your personal information unless you authorize it to. So only authorize programs you're familiar with to access the internet. You can then take steps to remove any suspicious programs.

Adjust Your Browser Security Settings

To prevent spyware from finding its way onto your computer, you might want to adjust your internet browser's security settings. On Internet Explorer, your Internet Zone settings should be on or above "Medium Security."

Keep Your Computer Updated

Another way to prevent spyware from getting onto your computer is to keep your programs and system updated. There are four important types of updates you should keep up with: operating system updates, anti-virus software updates, email program updates, and internet service provider (ISP) updates.

Operating systems like Windows commonly come with security holes. This means that the way the system is structured inadvertently leaves it open to certain security threats. As the security inefficiencies of your operating system are discovered, the company that produces your operating system (for example Microsoft) will come out with security patches. Security patches are small applications that fix inadequacies in the system's security features. Make sure to install security updates for your operating system as soon as they're available, and check for updates regularly on the company's updates and support pages. You may want to change your system's settings to automatically check for updates if you haven't already done so. Pay special attention to updates marked "Critical."

Make sure you update your anti-virus software on a regular basis too. Older versions of antivirus software didn't protect against spyware because worms and viruses (what this anti-virus software is meant to protect against) behave differently than spyware does. But popular anti-virus programs like McAffee VirusScan and Norton AntiVirus now scan for some spyware, and they are constantly improving.

Email software like Microsoft Outlook needs to be updated too, since email software can now scan for spyware as well. This helps prevent malicious software from getting to your computer through email. You need to keep your email software updated so it has the latest information on the spyware you're at risk to pick up.

And last but not least, your internet service provider will sometimes come out with security updates as well. These updates can take the form of spyware protection or browser enhancements that block pop-ups etc. Make sure to regularly check for and download these updates. You have to have the latest version of the browser software to take advantage of the built in security features, so it's important to keep your browser up-to-date.

Of course, if you're going to go to the trouble of protecting your computer from spyware, you may also want to learn how to remove the spyware you already have and see what anti-spyware programs can do for you.

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