Popular downloads can carry hidden dangers
The vast majority of people remain oblivious to the dangers of spyware and adware and how their PCs become infected and the problem is getting worse.
This was the conclusion of the latest report sponsored by security software firm, McAfee . It found that of more than 14,000 internet users surveyed, most couldn't detect which sites offering popular types of downloads were free of spyware.
A report in February on the dangers of spyware from security firm Webroot show there are around 21 spyware infections per PC in the UK. Almost all of it is aimed at harvesting financial data that could be used by third parties.
Now outpacing viruses, some of this software resets itself hourly to evade detection. 'Build your own spyware' kits are commonplace on the internet in publicly available forums, leading to fears that 'script kiddies', technically unsophisticated users, could develop and distribute their own malware.
The type of sites that hide this unwanted software are usually the most popular for consumer downloads and include screensavers, smileys, free games, song lyrics, and file-sharing applications.
A spyware quiz developed by security company Siteadvisor lets web users test their ability to detect websites free of adware and spyware. When the company, now owned by Mcafee, challenged web users in March to see if they could detect dodgy sites and found that only three in ten people could.
"We know it's not easy to judge a site's safety just by looking at it,' said Chris Dixon, head of McAfee's Siteadvisor development.
Because of this difficulty Siteadvisor has developed software that is available as a free download and which will rate site safety for spyware by a green for safe, yellow for caution or red for danger icons.
However although Siteadvisor is a good first line of defence but it is always wisest to run scans to see if something has got through the net. Microsoft's Defender anti spyware detection and removal tool currently available as test software is free to consumers.
Readers could also download anti-spyware such as Spybot Search and Destroy and Adaware, both of which are free from the Computeractive website. These will also look for the spyware and adware and remove them from a PC.
However beware of the growing number of dodgy spyware removal tools that actually introduce more malicious software. A comprehensive list and report of this software is updated regularly by Spyware Warrior .
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