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Anti-virus, Malware, Security

Question: Can malware or spyware do any real harm to my computer, or is it all just a bunch of hype?

Answer: Yes, malware, spyware, and adware can wreak havoc on your computer - from capturing financial account information, using your computer to make expensive phone calls or send spam emails, keeping you from using your web browser due to obnoxious (and fake) security warning popups, and even placing hard core porn links on your desktop.

I used to naively think that malware was just a minor but harmless annoyance, or that spyware was limited to just reporting my online preferences much like a grocery card at Safeway. That was until my home computers became infected with MalwareAlarm and I was unable to use my web browsers altogether, due to the constant popups claiming I needed to send this company money to get rid of the security popups.

More recently I turned off my anti-spyware software for a couple of days to troubleshoot some performance issues, and my system was almost immediately infected with IEMonster and another nasty adware infection called zlob.PornAdvertiser (and not from visiting any questionable or adult-related websites either).

Question: I have paid for the full version of Malware Alarm, but now I can't find the software on my PC. I paid $40 for it - can I use it or get my money back?

Answer: I'm sorry to be the one to break the bad news to you, but you've actually sent your money to the very malware program that you were trying to remove from your system. You're not alone either - this is an extremely manipulative and invasive infection that convinces a lot of people to send in their money in hopes of getting rid of MalwareAlarm, only to find that they've been swindled.

The good news is that you can effectively get rid of MalwareAlarm from your system using a couple programs that have proven to completely remove Malware Alarm. Read on to learn more about MalwareAlarm and the programs that will remove malware from your computer, and that will also prevent malware from infecting your system in the future.

MalwareAlarm is a program that falsely claims to be an anti-spyware application that will scan for and remove spyware from users' computers. It attempts to trick or pressure users into purchasing the program by presenting the user with intrusive, deceptive warnings and/or false, misleading scan results.

Comparison of Norton, McAfee, and Panda security programs for defending against virus, malware, spyware, and system intrusion attempts.

The recent iPhone launch is being exploited by cyber-crooks for financial gain. Panda Labs (makers of Panda Internet Security 2007) has uncovered a tool that controls a botnet made up of over 7,500 zombie computers infected by the Aifone.A bot Trojan. If the user of an infected PC tries to buy an iPhone online, their confidential data might end up in the hands of cyber-criminals.

Here's how it works: When a PC is infected by the Aifone.A bot Trojan, it automatically turns into a bot of the server in question (ie. it controls your computer over the Internet). The first time you connect to the Internet, the Trojan will send several requests to the server, in order to receive some instructions that will be carried out by the Trojan in your computer.

My home computer systems were both recently infected by the MalwareAlarm program, and I captured screen shots as it attacked my system - to show you the kind of grief this program can inflict, and also to demonstrate how to clean your system of malware, spyware, and adware.

If you spend any time shopping on the Internet or reading email, then the answer to this question is most likely yes.

Most people don't realize just how many spyware programs are currently running on their computers. In fact, I thought my home computers were clean until I ran an antispyware program and found 444 various forms of spyware infections lurking on my system!

The program I used to clean my system was Spyware Doctor. I'll discuss it in more detail below, but first - here's some helpful information about malware, spyware, adware, trojans, and viruses:

What is Malware?
Malware is a generic term used to encompass malicious spyware, adware, Trojans, browser hijackers, keyloggers, dialers and tracking cookies.

Spyware is an application that makes use of your Internet connection, gathering and transmitting information on various activities you conduct on your computer to third-parties. This information is often collected and sent without your knowledge or consent. Like adware, spyware often installs as a third-party component bundled with a freeware or shareware application, which can make the distinction between the two somewhat ambiguous.

Trojans (also known as Trojan horses) can slip into your system and run without your knowledge. However, they are capable of possessing a variety functions. For example, some use your computer's modem to dial long-distance or toll numbers (like a dialer), potentially generating expensive phone bills. Unlike viruses and worms, Trojans do not replicate themselves.

Adware components install alongside a shareware or freeware application, after you have provided initial consent and bring targeted advertisements to your computer. These advertisements create revenue for the software developer. Adware displays web-based advertisements through pop-up windows or through an advertising banner that appears within a program's interface and can be very annoying.

Keyloggers, also known as 'key loggers' or 'keystroke loggers', these are programs that run in the background on your computer and are capable of recording every keystroke you make on your keyboard. Keyloggers can store such information, which could very well include personal details and passwords that you have typed into your computer, such that it can later be retrieved by third-parties.

Tracking Cookies - Internet browsers write and read cookies, which are small text files with small amounts of data (such as web site settings) which are placed onto your computer by visiting certain web sites. In many cases, cookies provide a benefit to users as they can retain settings for when you next visit a web site. In some instances, however, cookies are used to consolidate and track your behavior across different web sites, providing marketers with information about your web browsing habits.

As you can see, there are numerous ways that malicious software can barge into your system and make your life miserable. Some spyware programs can even collect your sensitive logon information, helping spyware vendors gain access to your financial accounts - personally I consider that a very high threat!

Fortunately there are programs like Spyware Doctor that will search and destroy these threats and keep your system protected from future threats. After running Spyware Doctor, it showed me a list of each threat on my system, along with a description of how dangerous it was.

Here's a link to a free Spyware Doctor download, which includes a free scan of your system. You'll be able to see how many threats are lurking around and will learn what kinds of damage they can do if left unchecked.

You might be surprised at what you find, and I recommend taking a few minutes to run the scan to make sure your system is clean.


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