Tip of the Day Blog
    The Web
« URLInfo | Main | Home defibrillator without prescription OK'd »




I keep getting warnings when I'm online that my computer is infected with spyware and that I should download a free program to fix it. Are these warnings real?

Ken Colburn of Data Doctors answers:

An unfortunate reality of today's Internet experience is that just by casually surfing the Net, you can pick up numerous pests commonly referred to as Adware and Spyware. Think of it as the inevitable grime that is picked up on your vehicle just by driving it around. Virtually every computer that spends any time at all on the Internet will come in contact with these hidden programs that exist purely to pester us with advertising by tracking what we do when we surf.

By harvesting the surfing habits of millions of users, companies can sell access to 'targeted' groups (surfers that tend to visit clothing or car sites, etc.) to the annoying advertisers that are looking for a very small response rate to make it all worthwhile. Between all of the in-your-face pop-up ads, vulnerabilities in just about every Internet enabled software program, and hidden programs within other programs, it has become a major task to combat this latest blight of online life.

The 'warnings' that you are referring to are nothing more than an aggressive advertising campaign to try to scare you into buying a product (a.k.a. 'Scare-ware').

There are no programs currently available that can actually check your computer for Adware and Spyware through a pop-up window, and even if they could, I would not trust them. The majority of anti-spyware programs are actually very questionable in their tactics to get you to buy. Many of them make it look like they are scanning your system and come up with concocted results to make you think that you are infected, because they know that virtually everyone online has some form of Adware or Spyware in their system.

A Web site known as Spyware Warrior currently lists 96 different spyware removal programs that are of questionable nature because of false-positives, poor results, or deceptive advertising. Some are actually spyware programs in disguise! These rogue programs will go as far as offering a free download that will scan your system, but will not clean it out unless you pay. To make things worse, they may even require you to buy a subscription to their service in order to uninstall the program, even though it did nothing for you.

In general, the best anti-spyware tools are free and have gained popularity through word of mouth, not pop-up ads. The two that I always recommend are Ad-aware Personal Edition and Spybot Search and Destroy. Both of these programs have gained such an audience that they are constantly being knocked off at hundreds of Web sites that push inferior programs.

Only download these programs from the links that I have listed above or you can always check the Data Doctors Web site for a list of all of the programs that we have tested and recommend for fighting Spyware, pop-ups, spam or any of the today's most common nuisances.

EmailEmail Article to Friend