Spyware and Viruses Explained


Everybody knows about, or has at least heard about what a virus is,
but do you really understand what they are, or how they spread?


What about pop-ups, trojan-horse programs, and spyware? Do you know the difference between a virus and a worm? On this page you can learn these things, learn how to prevent them, and even how to cure them!

The Virus:

A virus is simply a program that someone creates (usually a geek that has crossed over to the dark-side) that has the ability to spread to other computers. A virus usually (but not always) is destructive in some way. For example, a virus may search an infected computer for email addresses, email itself to all those addresses, then on some predetermined day, erase the entire computer!
The people that received the email that was automatically sent may open that email, infect their computer, and repeat the process. Although a virus is able to spread on it's own, it needs some sort of human interaction to infect a computer. Usually this means someone has to 'run' (double-click) the virus program. Virus writers usually use some kind of social-engineering to trick people into double-clicking their virus programs. This is why it is important to never open an email attachment that you were not expecting - EVEN if it appears to be from someone you know.

The Worm:

The worm is similar to the virus except for one detail. The worm requires no human help or intervention to spread itself! Worms rely on security 'holes' in Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Internet Explorer, or other systems/programs that allow them to automatically spread themselves over the internet. A security hole is simply an error or oversight in a program that when manipulated in just the right way, can be made to take control of the computer. Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Internet Explorer seem to have an abundance of this type of hole - however Microsoft usually calls them 'features'.

The Trojan Horse:

A trojan-horse is program that can do damage like a Virus or a Worm, but it does not have the ability to spread to other computers. Instead, the Trojan is disguised as something that it isn't - such as a fun game, sexy picture-file, etc. The user thinks he or she is getting something for free, when in reality they are getting much more than they imagined.

Spyware:

Spyware is software that is installed on your computer without your knowledge, remains hidden, and is difficult to remove. The purpose of spy-ware is usually to gather information about your web-surfing habits, your email addresses, or other personal information, and then transmit the information to it's "mother-ship" to be sold for marketing purposes.
Although spyware usually does not intentionally cause damage to your PC, it often slows it down or cause it to crash unexplainably. If you are using Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Internet Explorer, and your are an average user, and if you have not taken steps to prevent it, I can virtually guarantee that you have spyware on your PC right now!

The Pop-Up and it's cousin, the Pop-Under:

Popups and Pop-unders are advertising windows that appear out of nowhere on your screen (a pop up). Or appear below your open windows, so that when you close your programs you see the remaining 'pop-under' advertisement.
We have two types of these irritants. The innocent and the not-so-innocent.
The innocent popup (or popunder) appears when going to a website as a means for them to advertise something that you probably don't want. Most web-browser programs have built-in pop up blockers that can prevent this type of popup.
The Not-so-Innocent Pop Up is actually a form of spy-ware (see above). The purpose of this spyware is to generate advertisements that are always on your PC - no matter what you do, even when you aren't on the internet! This type of popup (or pop-under) usually advertises websites for pornography or gambling. If you've ever had this type of pop-up spyware on your PC you know how irritating it can be!

See our preventing viruses and spyware page to learn to prevent a virus or spyware.

If you think you already have a virus or spyware see our page on symptoms of a virus or spyware.

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LadyWicked (not verified)
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

"A trojan-horse is program that can do damage like a Virus or a Worm, but it does not have the ability to spread to other computers."

I have a trojan thats spreading to other computers, via msn!!!!!

fireANDice
I am Glad I bought a Mac ! from USA
Member for 7 years 6 weeks
GuG-Points: 269
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

UGH!! I'm so tired of these things!!
Maybe time for a Mac?
(And the burger sounds good too right about now...)
lol Wink

"It's never too late to become who you might have been." - Unknown

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained
To fix your problem, download www.STOPzilla.com
davecoolnet8
from Houston, Texas
Member for 7 years 4 weeks
GuG-Points: 1
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

I am new to the site and just want to help out. I think a great program which works is Adware 6.0, it is free and reliable.

little miss dior
little miss dior's picture
from Off the Deep End
Member for 7 years 49 weeks
GuG-Points: 319
free spyware??

So since were on the subject. I hate to use IE at all anymore but in order for me to look at my trakzor right I almost have to....

So what free spyware programs to you recomend?? I have one right now but I really don't think it's picking up half of what it should be!!

PhAx2600
from United States
Member for 7 years 16 weeks
GuG-Points: 6
Re: free ANTI spyware??

Hey little miss dior hows it going I have a few suggestions for you to get rid of spyware, since your using IE you'll really need these sooner or later.If your using Trakzor for myspace tracking then thats the only time I would use IE and other than that Use Firefox but heres some programs anyways.Be sure to scan in safe mode to get the best results.All of these are free that I listed.

http://www.spywareterminator.com/

http://www.superantispyware.com download the free for home user edition, probably the best out of the pay for and the free proggy's for finding and killing the hard to delete ones like VirusProtectPro and WinAntivirus Malware.

http://www.ewido.com

http://www.emsisoft.com download A2 free edition & Anti dialer

http://www.arovaxantispyware.com this software is quick and effective

http://www.sandboxie.com/ use this for IE and you wont get any infections: Read the site for the instructions.

http://www.lavasoft.com download AdawareSE 1.07

http://www.atribune.org download ATF Cleaner and leave it on your desktop so you can clean up all your temp and prefetch files daily. And use this before you do any type of Virus, Spyware or trojan scan.

hope this helps you clean up your computer little miss dior and all the other Grown Up Geek Members. "Happy cleaning"

razz
from Melbourne
Member for 7 years 45 weeks
GuG-Points: 48
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

All i use is a firewall i dont use anti-spyware or anti-virus I dont get either of them its pretty simple to stop recieving them, turn of cookies except for when needed from a TRUSTED site, use firefox, get the no scripting add-on for firefox, dont open popups, and the number 1 rule if you dont know what it is DO NOT CLICK ON IT!!!!
______________________________________
Thats so plausible its unbelievable

texanit
Member for 7 years 43 weeks
GuG-Points: 2
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

You could'nt be more wrong ....just lucky so far. Perhaps you should go back and look at the definition of a worm. Not having anti-virus or anti-malware protection installed on your computer is not only nieve but can prove to be very costly. Trust me I know. I work on business computers for a living and I remove viruses from machines that were infected by people who took your same approach. An anti-virus such as AVG is perfect and is free. I get called daily because people took your approach. Trust me. It is simple and free to be pro-active.

CM
CM's picture
I am Lazy from Mississippi River, Northern Illinois
Member for 8 years 4 days
GuG-Points: 304
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

I have Panda and I, too, automatically receive the notifications that spyware has been neutralized.  It’s usually after I’ve had to use IE; when I use Firefox I get very few spyware alerts.  That being said, I like to run a couple others (AdAware & Spybot-S&D) in addition to the antivirus because, together, they pick up what the others miss.  Redundancy is never a bad thing when it comes to performance and safety.

razz
from Melbourne
Member for 7 years 45 weeks
GuG-Points: 48
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

Rather than installing several third party apps, you're better of installing one that will do the Job of all of them, Trend Micro PC-Cillin Does Viruses and spyware, I do sys Admin and we have norton and I possibly hate it more than any thing on earth its a temperamental.. well enough of that, use trend, It wont slow down your start up (as much) when its starting up realtime virus protection, but remember turn the firewall profile to home network when you get it as some of the others will just block you after a while unless you change the settings, so its easier to put it on home network.
______________________________________
Thats so plausible its unbelievable

psychotic1
psychotic1's picture
Member for 7 years 43 weeks
GuG-Points: 6
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

Trend Micro PC Cillin is very good product! If you do not want to spend the money on the software, go to their website and do an on-line scan. It is very, very thorough but it will take some time and you must okay the active x install when prompted. Also, turn off any other anti-vir that you may have untill the scan and clean-up is over.
Razz is right about the Norton also. Whenever I work on a PC with Norton in it, I automatically un-install it and replace it with something that isn't so ill acting.

SoonerQueen
SoonerQueen's picture
I am A Female from Oklahoma City
Member for 6 years 5 weeks
GuG-Points: 3
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

Housecalls by Trend Micro is a great thing to use. It picks up most everything and it's free. All you do is go to the housecalls site and run it, and it works really well.

psychotic1
psychotic1's picture
Member for 7 years 43 weeks
GuG-Points: 6
Re: Spyware and Viruses Explained

Trend Micro PC Cillin is very good product! If you do not want to spend the money on the software, go to their website and do an on-line scan. It is very, very thorough but it will take some time and you must okay the active x install when prompted. Also, turn off any other anti-vir that you may have untill the scan and clean-up is over.
Razz is right about the Norton also. Whenever I work on a PC with Norton in it, I automatically un-install it and replace it with something that isn't so ill acting.

DietVanillaCokeLover
Member for 7 years 49 weeks
GuG-Points: 5
help

Lately, I have been getting alot of spyware/virus notices from Panda Antivirus which I am currently using. Alot of the time, they are adding random exe's to my c:\folder. And occasionally, I get msn_live.exe. Sometimes a rootkit is installed as well. And I used to never be able to get rid of abc123.pid but I have recently seemingly gotten rid of that. I have defeated most of it most of the time with rustbfix, SDFix, SmitfraudFix, Spybot, AVG Spyware, Adaware, and other assorted programs. I use Combofix to keep track of everything that is added just in case it comes back. Within the past month, I have all the assorted issues mentioned before at least 5 or 6 times. Each time, I get seeming more angry with it all. If anyone knows how to get rid of it all, please let me know. Thanks.

Nighteyes
Member for 8 years 10 weeks
GuG-Points: 20
Getting rid of ALEXA

Every time I run ad aware...It finds some ALEXA spyware in the log. Of course ad aware deletes it,  but it always returns.   There must be files or a hidden program somewhere in my computer that I missed.

I did a google search and found a few sites with information on Alexa spyware, and I thought I'd manually deleted it all, but guess not.

Any geeks here have any ideas of how I can get rid of Alexa for good?

Thanks,

NIGHTEYES

psychotic1
psychotic1's picture
Member for 7 years 43 weeks
GuG-Points: 6
Re: Getting rid of ALEXA

Open up search on your PC menu and type in 'Alexa'. When the search is done, delete all of the instances. you are more than likely visiting a website to which alexa is attached. I had this problem a little while back until I figured out where I was going to keep getting it.

animestrinity
animestrinity's picture
I am not telling from my own planet... keep off... no visitors.
Member for 8 years 8 weeks
GuG-Points: 6577
ALEXA removal

Sounds like ad-aware isn't finding all the files in your registry so every time you reboot, ALEXA gets reinstalled.

Either you need a better removal program (I personally don't like ad-aware, it never catches everything for me) or you can google 'alexa removal' to find the instructions that will tell you the files and registry values and such that you'll have to manually remove (a bit time consuming, but if you really want it gone and want it gone for free, this is a good option). I know of a site with step by step instructions, but not sure if I can share that site publicly in this post.

Good luck...

~~~

Blonde is a state of mind... or lack thereof...

I am a Grown Up Geek from Cyberspace
Member for 8 years 47 weeks
GuG-Points: 1123
re; Alexa

Keep in mind that according to many 'experts' Alexa isn't technically 'spyware'.. Alexa.com tracks traffic statistics that it collects from people that install the Alexa toolbar.. Not the worst thing in the world to have on your PC.

You can see Alexa in action here:
Alexa.com Traffic stats

Anime; If you want to post step-by-step instructions for removal, or a link to that site, go ahead..

yourdady90
I am the boy your mother warned you about
Member for 8 years 3 weeks
GuG-Points: 39
Help

What is a good fire wall I had Mcafee and I kept getting crap on my comp so all I have is trend micro and stop zilla. I need a good fire wall cand you sugest a good one IMPOSSIBLE007?

PhAx2600
from United States
Member for 7 years 16 weeks
GuG-Points: 6
Re: Help

Sygate Personal Firewall is pretty good and it doesn't take up much resources either. you can get it from here

http://www.majorgeeks.com/Sygate_Personal_Firewall_Free_d3356.html

foambrush
I am Not Telling from 7th Circle of the Inferno
Member for 8 years 9 weeks
GuG-Points: 944
Firewall

Comodo is a good free firewall that has a small footprint, zone alarm is also good but eats up more RAM, I stay away from McAfee and Norton because they are bloated and don't seem to learn what programs should have access as well as the free programs.

GeekyBlackGirl
GeekyBlackGirl's picture
I am Not Telling
Member for 8 years 9 weeks
GuG-Points: 691
In terms of Norton...

Its probably not you, well, maybe some parts...lol. Seriously, I know some people who love Norton but I have never had a good experience with it. It didn't catch any viruses and it slowed my computer down. I got AVG which caught trojan horses, worms, coupled that with spy/ad removal and my system runs a lot better.

texanit
Member for 7 years 43 weeks
GuG-Points: 2
Re: In terms of Norton...

I work on computers for a living and I remove viruses and spyware from infected machines almost daily. I have cleaned up countless numbers of infected computers that had norton installed prior to getting a virus. Norton and McCafee both flat out suck and are a rip off. It is funny because I will install the free AVG on the infected computer and it will almost immediately pick up a virus. I trust AVG to do the job. AVG doesn't bog down your computer, actually finds viruses on infected machines, and is so much cheaper than McCafee and/or Norton (free is really cheap). I trust AVG to run on many corporate networks that must be kept clean and I would'nt dare install Norton. You are totally right and I am willing to bet that most computer technicians (who are worth anything) would agree with you and have came across your same observations.

LynnH
I am The walrus koo koo kachoo
Member for 8 years 13 weeks
GuG-Points: 1134
terms

I will check that one out too. And lol, yes, some of it was me....I'm sure of it...and never went back to see what I did wrong...as in, everytime Norton starts up, it turns off my firewall settings and the only way I could get it to NOT do it was to turn it off in Norton. So, before I ever turn on my network I change the firewall settings back to "On" after Norton starts up, because I want that on, not off. So, that's where I think it's something I did in the beginning.

Another thing is a trojan I had, it was a new york something or other, and Norton would not get rid of it, it would send me to their site, with the long long explanation of what to do to get rid of it and that upset me, because I wanted my anti virus software to get rid of it for me, that's why I paid the money. So, yeah, laziness on my part.

I do run the spy/ad removals everyday and that helps. I'll be checking out AVG also. Thanks.

 

 

If I was standing on a fish, I'd slip and fall......

thehunter
thehunter's picture
Member for 8 years 6 weeks
GuG-Points: 267
re: norton

LynnH, since I have put in Trend Micro Antivirus I have had no problems,also as my spyware software I have Webroot Spy Sweeper. It updates automatic almost each day, and a new version comes out seems like at least every other month.(Free Upgrades) So they are staying on top of things. With the both of them I have had zero issues with my system. Couldnt say that about Norten!

LynnH
I am The walrus koo koo kachoo
Member for 8 years 13 weeks
GuG-Points: 1134
I use Webroot also, and the

I use Webroot also, and the other is.... Ad-Aware SE Personal. What one doesn't catch, the other does.

 

If I was standing on a fish, I'd slip and fall......

thehunter
thehunter's picture
Member for 8 years 6 weeks
GuG-Points: 267
Webroot vs Ad-ware

Each week I run a scan through Webroot it states I have no spyware. Can you tell which one is working better between Webroot and Ad-Aware?

IMPOSSIBLE007 (not verified)
Re: Webroot vs Ad-ware

I use "Ad-Aware SE Personal" and it works great and finds every thing I also use "STOPzilla" as well

These are the ones I have on Mm computer And that work great

  1. Ad-Aware SE Personal - Free for personal use
  2. STOPzilla
  3. Trend Micro Antivirus - Free for personal use
  4. McAfee

THEY ALL WORK GOOD TOGETHER

LynnH
I am The walrus koo koo kachoo
Member for 8 years 13 weeks
GuG-Points: 1134
Ad-Adware

Ad-Aware is my choice for finding things between the two.

 

 

If I was standing on a fish, I'd slip and fall......

GeekyBlackGirl
GeekyBlackGirl's picture
I am Not Telling
Member for 8 years 9 weeks
GuG-Points: 691
Ad-Aware and Spybot

I use both of these with Ad-Aware getting the majority of things and spybot picks up what Ad-Aware left behind.

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