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Internet Scams 102 -- Hijackings and Spyware
| My friend Janice is afraid to go on the Internet because of the terrible things that might happen to her. She views a simple trip to get e-mail the way she views going alone, late at night, to a dangerous part of town.
Please . . . it’s not that bad. Though, come to think of it, it’s ALMOST that bad: hijackers can now do things to people who already have antivirus and anti-spyware programs. To people who have carefully NOT clicked on scam e-mails. Some hijackers can disable your firewall, your antivirus software, and your spyware killers. Or they can prevent antivirus and spyware from being updated.
But there are solutions. Here’s what you do:
You know you’ve been hijacked if your start page is different and if you keep getting things you didn’t intend to get -- frequently pornographic sites and popup ads. You change things back the way they were, but they won’t stay changed.
These nasties nabbed you through a security hole in Microsoft Windows. If you haven’t been caught and don’t want to be, http://www.spywareinfo.com/articles/hijacked/prevent.php says,
“First and most simply, stop using Internet Explorer. If you use either Mozilla, Firefox or Opera, you are immune to virtually all browser hijackers.”
Actually, it’s not that simple. There are ways scammers can get around Firefox. Microsoft is also busy locking its barn doors, though I’m afraid the horse has already been stolen.
If you decide to stay with Internet Explorer, be sure to keep it up to date, especially with what they call “critical updates.”
The most basic and most necessary protection, one you’ve probably installed already, is antivirus protection. The antivirus programs upgrade constantly to protect us from the latest viruses. Norton is the most common, and a good choice. If you prefer a simple, uncomplicated solution, go to the site that sells Norton, http://symantec.com/, and download all the antivirus protection you want.
If you’re a thorough person, however, one who wants to learn about all the options, go to http://antivirus.about.com/od/antivirussoftwarereviews/, and you will learn of problems and solutions you never dreamed existed.
WHAT YOU GET FOR NOTHING IS NOTHING -- OR WORSE
Unfortunately, an antivirus program alone is not enough these days. You need ANTI-SPYWARE.
Because the latest hijackers can disable anti-spyware -- AND keep you from downloading updates -- you want some that is really, really good. The techie who manages my website says, “Get something that can WARD OFF attacks, not just remove them after they’ve infected you. Once really vicious spyware is on your machine, it may be impossible for anyone but an expert to remove it.”
“But what about all the free anti-spyware?” you ask. If you go to http://www.apcug.net/Reports/Editorial/2004.htm, you’ll see under December 2004 an article “Beware of SCUMWARE Pretending to be Anti-Spyware” which tells one man’s experience. Sometimes what you get for nothing is nothing. Or worse than nothing.
When my computer ran slower and slower, some parts of my website disappeared, and question marks appeared all over my website homepage, I yelped for help. Should have yelped sooner, but better late than never. Asked my website manager what he uses. He uses Lavasoft’s PROFESSIONAL program of Ad-Aware and Ad-Watch. I bought it, and it found 17 pieces of spyware (Alexas and tracking cookies), plus a possible browser hijack attempt. (The techie said, “That’s nothing. They found 83 pieces of spyware on mine!” But then he’s a pro.) Ad-Aware removed all the problems except the question marks on my website home page, http://foodandfiction.com/Entrance.html. These are probably due to the attempted hijack. I’m stuck with them. Fortunately they don’t show on any computer except mine.
If you want to lead a simple life, come here to http://lavasoft.com and download their PROFESSIONAL type of Ad-Aware and Ad-Watch.
If you prefer an in-depth investigation of anti-spyware,
http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,119572,00.asp can help you. They’ve tested most of the anti-spyware out there, though I must say that Ad-Aware’s pro version was not tested, only the pc version.
Just don’t wait until you’re in big trouble. Do something now!
IF YOU’VE BEEN HIJACKED
A good, basic article can be found by going to http://www.apcug.net/Reports/Editorial/2004.htm. Scroll down to September 2004 and download “Help! I’ve Been Hijacked . . .”
Another good article is, “How to Remove Adware and Spyware,” http://antivirus.about.com/od/securitytips/a/removespyware.htm.
You might also read “Invasion of the Browser Snatchers” at
http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,84464,tk,dn021402X,00.asp. The article will explain how to undo the damage -- although some hijack damage can’t be removed that easily.
Here are more good sources of spyware information:
http://www.scumware.com/ - a website about nothing else but.
http://www2.spywareinfo.com/category/news/ has fascinating current Internet security news flashes, which you will enjoy if you like to feel that civilization as we know it is under constant threat.
About the author:
Find the best recipe, food gift, and healthy dieting sites in Janette Blackwell’s Delightful Food Directory, http://delightfulfood.com/main.htmlOr enjoy her country cooking at Food and Fiction, http://foodandfiction.com/Entrance.html
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