Spyware – Signs that you are infected
Spyware has been touted as the biggest threat to information security on the web today. It's been estimated that as many as 90% of all computers connected to the internet have some form of spyware infection. The main reason for this is lack of education with most users. There are a few signs you can look out for to determine if you may be infected with Spyware.
Sluggish response - It just seems like everything takes forever to open and the system does not perform as well as it did in the past. This could be a sign of spyware infection. If you notice an abundance of hard drive activity when you are not launching applications, then you need to check and make sure you are not infected.
Numerous popups - It seems like you are constantly bombarded with advertising popups when you are surfing the net. This is usually a sure sign that you are infected. Since a lot of Advertisers pay for the number of views their product receives, it is very profitable for spyware programmers to bombard you with advertisements which increases the revenue they receive from these advertisers. Of course it's annoying for you and since you are annoyed its unlikely you will actually purchase the product, so both you and the advertiser loses on this deal.
Computer reboots - Your computer unexpectedly restarts and once you log back in your old programs no longer work as expected. This is a sure sign that you have been infected and you need to restore your computer to a previous state as soon as possible. This is normally the most intrusive type of spyware and thus the most dangerous as the spyware program now has total control of your computer.
New favorites or programs - You notice unexpected shortcuts in your WebSite favorites list or strange programs on your program menu. This means some program has been installed without your knowledge.
New toolbar - All of a sudden, you are seeing a new toolbar in your browser. You didn't install it and you are unable to remove it.
These are some of signs that your computer has been infected with SpyWare applications and you need to take immediate steps to revert your computer back to its non-spyware infected state. For most users the best step is to install a Spyware detection program like ZoneAlarm Pro and have it clean your system. Because some types of Spyware can not be cleaned by these programs many times your only choice is to restore your computer to an earlier state.
You can restore your computer in Windows XP by selecting Start Menu -> Accessories -> System Tools -> System Restore and following the defaults to move your system back to a time before you became infected. You should keep in mind that system restore does not remove any documents or data files you have created, but it does remove any applications that have been installed including the offending spyware application that is causing you grief.