Detecting Spyware on your computer
Spyware is a little piece of code or program that is usually installed on your computer without your knowledge. They can install when you open an attachement to an email, just opening an email or visiting a website. These programs can also be installed as an addon with another program that you do want to install. The problem here is you aren't consenting to the extra program, but they bury the description in the terms of service that they show you before the download. We all know that very few read the pages and pages of legalese that they throw at you....all you want is to download your program and start using it.
Many spyware programs are not destructive, Some attempt to steal your personal information, which could then be used to steal your identity. This is one of the most troubling problems that the spyware proliferation on the internet poses. Everyone needs to take proper measures downloading the latest updates for their operating systems, as well as utilizing third party spyware scanning programs to prevent, find and destroy the infection.
Another problem is that spyware wastes your precious computer resources and slows down the performance of your computer. This is because the programs are usually not well coded and they contain numerous memory leaks and other non-optimized code. The programs usually run in the background and are designed so that they are not easily detected.
There are many SpyWare detection programs on the internet that are designed to stop these programs, but since there are many more Spyware writers than there are spyware dector writers, then most spyware is never detected. One of the spyware programs I use on a regular basis is CounterSpy by Sunbelt Software. CounterSpy is not freeware, but is priced at a very reasonable $19.95 per year. CounterSpy runs continually in the background, providing your computer with up to date protection against spyware programs.
There are a few other methods you can employ to help determine if you have been infected.
If you watch your hard drive light, you may notice an excessive amount of activity even when you aren't doing much on your computer. This could be a valid process such as a Virus Scan or an operating system process running, but it could also be a spyware program doing its work in the background.
Another method is to check the processes in your computer task manager for rogue programs. This is not hard to do, but it does take a little time to effectively perform. If you are running Windows XP then an easy way to check your task manager processes is to right click on the task bar and select Task Manager. You will receive a dialog box, where you can view the processes running. Don't go by what you see in the Applications section, because most spyware programs won't show up as an active running application, but only show themselves under the processes tab. You will then need to research each process running using a search engine such as Google to determine if the process may be a rogue process and possibly spyware. There will be many processes running in the Task Manager and most of those will be valid. If you notice one of the programs that is taking a lot more resources than the others such as CPU time or Memory consumption then that is a good candidate for a SpyWare program. Start with the high usage programs and research those first.
If you look for these two items then you will be able to detect the presence of many types of spyware, but even more important is making sure you are running your spyware detection programs on a regular basis (at least once a week, and preferably using a program like CounterSpy which runs continually in the background providing live protection).