HOW TO: Annihilate Windows Spyware

Nobody likes spyware, especially when it doesn't go away with traditional methods. Spyware uses precious system resources to carry out dirty system activities and decrease your computer's performance noticeably. Most of you have heard of Lavasoft's AdAware, a big player in the anti-spyware movement. However, there are some types of spyware that just won't budge, even with AdAware.

Step 1

The three main programs that can be used to remove 99% of all spyware are AdAware, Spybot Search & Destroy and more recently Microsoft's AntiSpyware. If you have spyware problems, I recommend trying these three first, before scouring your system for other, hard to cure spyware infections. These programs are easy enough to use, but if you run into any problems please leave a comment. In Spybot S&D, be sure to turn on the immunization feature as well as Real Time Protection in Microsoft's AntiSpyware.

Just briefly, I'll go over using Spybot and AdAware. After installing spybot, click Search for Updates, check all of the boxes it finds and then Download Updates (may take some time). In the left pane, select Search & Destroy and then Check for problems. When that completes, make sure everything is checked and click Fix selected problems, then Yes to the confirmation dialog. Select Immunize on the left pane and then the Immunize button up top to block future bad products being installed. While you're here, check the box for Enable permanent blocking of bad addresses in Internet Explorer."

For AdAware, we will begin by checking for updates via Check for updates now and click Connect on the new window that pops up. If any new components are available for download, allow it to do so and then click Finish. Back in the main AdAware window click on Start and click Perform smart system scan. If this is your first time running AdAware, I would recommend opting for the full system scan but this takes much longer to complete. Once you've chosen your scanning mode, click Next and go indulge in a cup of hot Java. Don't have your speakers on too high because AdAware makes a nice sound that can scare you out of your chair if your speakers are too loud when it is complete with the scan. Click Next to be greeted with a list of offending objects found on your system. You can review them to make sure AdAware didn't find anything that you use, otherwise right-click in the "Scan Summary" box and Select All Objects then click Next. A confirmation dialog will pop up; click OK and you're done.

Eliminating Problematic Spyware

A common piece of Spyware found on Windows boxes is CoolWebSearch, a set of browser hijackers. This can be removed with Trend Micro's CWShredder, which also removes CWS.Cassandra, a desktop hijacker as well as a browser hijacker. 180search Assistant is also another piece of malware and can be removed as any other applications are removed via the add/remove programs dialog.

Many browser hijackers and addons can be found with the HijackThis tool for Windows. You should take caution when using this application as it will find all browser-related addons, even ones that you may use such as Adobe Acrobat. For a comprehensive list of items HijackThis can find as well as other spyware removal tools, take note of Also, if you still use Internet Explorer you can prevent future spyware infections from Active-X based software with SpywareBlaster.

Alternative Browsers

I shouldn't have to go over this one. If you read my blog, you are probably smart enough to use a browser better than Internet Explorer, such as Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Seamonkey, Opera or the Mozilla Suite. All of these web browsers run faster than IE, work with web standards, have more features and are not nearly as prone to being infected with spyware as Internet Explorer.

Yes, it's true. Mac's don't get spyware. Redeem yourself.