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 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.



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?

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



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

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

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


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.

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?



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...

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..

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.

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.


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