One of the first things you should do if you find a trojan or spyware on your computer is disconnect it from the Internet. And we're not talking about closing a browser session; we're talking about pulling the phone line out of the wall or disconnecting the modem so your computer is not connected to any network.
Spyware and Adware Scanning Software
The easiest way to find and remove spyware and adware is with scanning software. Anti-spyware software is not the same as anti-virus software, although some anti-virus packages will detect some known spyware programs. The good news is that some of the most functional anti-spyware and anti-adware software are free.
Anti-spyware software works in much the same way as anti-virus software. It scans your computer's hard drive and looks for files associated with known spyware and adware programs. After the scan, the software usually displays or quarantines potential problems and allows users to decide what should be removed. As mentioned earlier, definitions vary and your tolerance to certain advertising-related cookies may be high.
Like anti-virus software, anti-spyware software relies on databases of known rogue programs that must be updated. Regardless of which anti-spyware package you decide to use, make sure you understand how and when it updates so you are protected against the newest pests. Also check any type of spyware or adware removal programs with the spyware databases. A program called SpywareNuker claims to be a removal program, but has been reported to be spyware itself.
Some anti-spyware software may specialize in locating only keyloggers, for example, so read the features before you use it.
The results from using spyware scanning products will vary. The effectiveness of the software also depends on how up-to-date its definitions are. The SpywareWarrier Web site did run a series of tests to gauge the effectiveness of different spyware scanning software packages. View the results here.
Anti-spyware software includes:
Other Removal Options
You can always check the Add/Remove Programs section of Windows to see if any adware or spyware is listed. Some of the quasi-legitimate adware programs may include uninstallers, but malicious pests do not.
There is a fairly complete list of adware programs, what they do, and how to manually remove them (if possible) at http://doxdesk.com/parasite/.
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LAST UPDATED 7/10/2009