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Tools For Fighting Ad Ware and Spy Ware
By Brien M. Posey
February 16, 2004

Are you being inundated with pop-up ads and you cannot figure out where they are coming from? This problem seems to be growing every day but if you understand the problem, you are better equipped to prevent it.

The real key to fixing pop-up ad problems is to understand where the pop-ups are coming from. Pop-ups can be generated by Web sites that you visit, or they can be generated by ad ware that exists on your system. Even the MSN Messenger service can generate pop-ups, although this is usually not excessive.

I recommend beginning the repair process by searching your system for both ad ware and spy ware. Ad ware and spy ware are programs that get installed on your system, usually without your knowledge. There are a million different varieties of these. The biggest difference between ad ware and spy ware is that spy ware typically steals information off of your system and sends it to someone, whether it be to a hacker or to an advertising firm. In the case of information being sent to an advertising firm, your habits are studied and then targeted ads are sent to you via E-mail, pop-ups, etc. For example, if you visit a lot of Web sites related to water sports, it wonít be long before youíll start receiving water sports related ads.

Ad ware on the other hand, is an imbedded component by which advertisers can push ads to your system, usually in the form of pop ups. One of the most notorious forms of ad ware is a product called Gator (www.gator.com). While this program poses as a device to prevent you from having to fill in Web forms, itís actually one of the more aggressive pieces of ad ware that I have seen.

Both ad ware and spy ware can be a menace to you and to your system. Not only do these types of software compromise your privacy and subject you to constant advertisements, they degrade your systemís performance by stealing CPU time, memory, disk space, disk time, and Internet bandwidth.

So the big question is, how do you get rid of ad ware and spy ware? There are lots of utilities for doing this. One of the best ad ware removal tools is a utility called Ad Ware from a company called Lavasoft (www.lavasoft.nu). This program is similar to an anti virus program, but scans only for ad ware.

An interesting spy ware removal tool is SpywareRemover, from Bullet Proof Software (www.BulletProofSoft.com). Like AdWare, SpywareRemover is an anti virus style program, but concentrates on removing spy ware. PestPatrol (www.pestpatrol.com) is another well developed tool that removes both ad ware and spy ware, and does a good job of locating ad ware agents that may reside on your hard drive without you knowing it. Still another useful tool is ViRobot from Hauri (www.hauri.net/). Technically ViRobot is an anti virus program, rather than a program for removing ad ware or spy ware. However, it also includes limited support for spy ware detection. Relevant has been advised that ViRobot will evolve into a full blown anti virus / spy ware / ad ware solution in the future. Hauri is a company to keep an eye on.

Now that I have shown you how to eliminate spy ware and ad ware, letís talk about those annoying Web based pop-ups. If a pop-up is part of a Web siteís code, then you can use a pop-up blocker to suppress it. My personal favorite pop-up blocker is a product called Guard-IE, from Failsafe Technologies (www.guardwall.com). GuardIE not only blocks Internet pop-ups, but also contains a number of other mechanisms designed to protect your privacy.

The biggest thing to remember when using an Internet pop-up blocker is that doing so may interfere with the usage of legitimate Web sites. There are plenty of legitimate Web sites that open things in a separate window. For example, if you click on a thumb nail, an enlarged image might be displayed in a separate window. Another example is that sometimes manufacturer Web sites contain links to product reviews. In such cases, the reviews are often opened in a separate window. For any adware blocker, be sure to configure it in a way that wonít interfere with the usage of legitimate Web sites. By removing spy ware and ad ware you'll improve your system resources, eliminate distractions, and maybe even get more work done!



 
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