Getting Rid of Spyware
NOTE: This page has barely been updated since 2004! Most people now know about virus checkers and so forth, but you may still find some useful info here. (And yes, as of 2017 I do still recommend the Firefox browser and use it myself.)
If your computer seems to be out of control, overrun with unwanted advertising or other annoying programs you don't want and can't seem to turn off, you probably have parasites installed on your system.
Fortunately, many parasites are easy to remove from your computer. Just download the Ad-Aware program from Lavasoft. (It's free.) After downloading it, double-click to install it, then run it. It will show you a list of parasites hidden on your computer. Click the boxes next to the parasites you wish to remove; then click "Continue" to delete them. (I have no affiliation with Lavasoft, but I have installed Ad-aware on my own computer and I'm very happy with it.)
Ad-Aware is my favorite anti-parasite program, but others are available, and for extra security you can use more than one. Microsoft offers a program that is currently free. You can download it here: Security at Home: Spyware.
Even if you aren't noticing any current problems, you should check your computer for parasites at least once a week.
What Is a Parasite Program?
Also called "adware," "spyware," "thiefware" and other unflattering names, parasites often come bundled with file-swapping programs, or other programs you download from the Internet. Sometimes parasites are downloaded to your computer automatically when you visit an infected website. You may not even know the program has been installed on your computer.
Many of these parasites secretly add software to your computer to spy on your online activities, force advertising on you as you surf, and/or steal the commissions from your purchases at small sites like Royalty.nu which rely on those commissions to survive.
Ad-Aware will remove many common parasites from your computer, but if you need more help, try the Lavasoft Support Forums. I found some spyware help I needed in the forums on this excellent website: Tech Support Guy.
Be aware that some anti-spyware products you'll see advertised online are fraudulent. This site provides information on programs to watch out for: Spyware Warrior
More Ways to Protect Your Computer
Adware and spyware aren't the only things a computer user needs to worry about. You must also protect yourself against viruses, Trojans, and other malicious programs. If you use the Internet at all, it is very important that you install a virus checker, keep it up-to-date, and scan your computer at least once a week to check for new infections.
In addition, if you have a broadband connection (such as cable or DSL), you should install a firewall. This will help prevent your computer from being hijacked by other people or programs.
One thing I do not recommend is a total ad-blocker. My computer's firewall has an ad-blocking function, but I keep it turned off. Ad-blockers not only block ads -- they also sometimes prevent you from seeing regular images on websites, and even text.
In addition, most websites (like this one!) are supported by advertising, and cannot survive without ads. If you want to help support a site, don't block its ads.
If you have a Windows computer, an easy way to protect yourself from many types of hacker attacks is to stop using Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. This is the browser built into Windows and AOL. Because Internet Explorer is the mostly widely used browser, it is also the browser most often targeted by hackers.
A good alternative is the Firefox browser. You can download it for free here: Firefox. I have no affiliation with Firefox, but I have used the browser for years and like it.