ARCHIVED: What is spyware or adware, and how can I remove it?
What it is
Spyware includes any data collection program that secretly gathers information about you and relays it to advertisers and other interested parties. Adware usually displays banners or unwanted pop-up windows. In many cases, unwanted programs of this sort do both functions.
You can unknowingly install spyware when you install new software, most commonly freeware or shareware P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing programs. Many of these programs are designed to track your Internet browsing habits, such as frequented sites and favorite downloads, and then provide advertising companies with marketing data.
Some spyware programs can adversely affect your computer's performance, and may prevent you from accessing secure services at Indiana University, including Oncourse, IU Webmail, CAS, and OneStart.
How to remove it
Unfortunately, you cannot fully remove most spyware and adware
programs by using the uninstall option in the Windows
Remove Programs control panel. To completely remove spyware
from your Windows computer, UITS recommends using
Windows Defender. Also, many antivirus products, such as
Symantec AntiVirus (SAV) or Symantec Endpoint
Protection (SEP), can scan for and remove spyware and
adware. For help, see ARCHIVED: How can SAV for Windows scan for spyware and adware, as well as for viruses?
How to avoid it
Follow these strategies to avoid spyware and adware:
- Keep your protective programs up to date. Windows Defender,
Symantec Endpoint Protection, or other applications distributed
outside of IU will detect only the bad software they know about, so
update the software's virus files weekly. Most protective software can
be configured to check for updates automatically, saving you the
trouble of remembering to do it.
- Allow the auto-protection feature of these programs to run. This
can stop most malware infections before they take root. Although
having antivirus and antispyware programs running in the background
uses up memory and CPU cycles, this small (sometimes unnoticeable)
loss is well worth the protection you receive. It's better to keep an
infection from happening than to allow the damage and be forced to
clean it up afterwards.
- Do not run programs as an administrative user. Most programs that
run in Windows do so in the "user context", or with the permissions
that you as the logged-in user have. Often, if you run a program as an
administrator, any malicious programs that execute also run as an
administrator. If, however, you run as a non-administrator, most
spyware and adware installers will be similarly restricted and will do
less damage; see What is the principle of least privilege?
themselves, are not harmful, and in many cases are necessary to view
and use a web site properly. However, since they contain information,
malicious programmers could find a way to misuse them; you should
therefore limit the transfer of cookies to and from reputable, trusted
sites. For more, see:
- How do I view and control cookies in my Internet browser?
- ARCHIVED: In Internet Explorer, how do I view and control cookies?
- ARCHIVED: In Safari for Mac OS X, how do I view and control cookies?
- Avoid clicking links in advertisements.
- Avoid clicking unsolicited links in instant messaging (IM) software, even if they appear to be from people you know. Some malicious programs propagate by launching an instant messaging program and sending links to people in the buddy list. If you are on someone's buddy list and get an unsolicited link, verify with the sender that the link was sent intentionally. For more, see If I use instant messaging software, how can I keep my computer secure?
Last modified on January 07, 2013.