The good news is that consumers can take steps to lower their risk of spyware infections. Indeed, OnGuard Online suggests that you:
- Update your operating system and Web browser software. Your operating system (like Windows or Linux) may offer free software "patches" to close holes in the system that spyware could exploit.
- Download free software only from sites you know and trust. It can be appealing to download free software like games, peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, customized toolbars, or other programs that may change or customize the functioning of your computer. Be aware, however, that some of these free software applications bundle other software, including spyware.
- Don't install any software without knowing exactly what it is. Take the time to read the end-user license agreement (EULA) before downloading any software. If the EULA is hard to find — or difficult to understand — think twice about installing the software.
- Minimize "drive-by" downloads. Make sure your browser security setting is high enough to detect unauthorized downloads, for example, at least the "Medium" setting for Internet Explorer. Keep your browser updated.
- Don't click on any links within pop-up windows. If you do, you may install spyware on your computer. Instead, close pop-up windows by clicking on the "X" icon in the title bar.
- Don't click on links in spam that claim to offer anti-spyware software. Some software offered in spam actually installs spyware.
- Install a personal firewall to stop uninvited users from accessing your computer. A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer and will alert you if spyware already on your computer is sending information out.
- If you think your computer might have spyware on it, experts advise that you take three steps: Get an anti-spyware program from a vendor you know and trust. Set it to scan on a regular basis — at least once a week — and every time you start your computer, if possible. And, delete any software programs the anti-spyware program detects that you don't want on your computer.