Due to the seriousness of spyware and the harm it can do to your system and personal information, it is highly recommended you take the following measures to prevent spyware from overtaking your system:
- Download and install anti-spyware software -- Perhaps the most critical step in preventing your system from becoming infected with spyware is to have a utility installed that can thwart malware threats from being installed on your computer. Most antivirus applications are effective in identifying different types of malware, including spyware, but may not detect all spyware variants. In addition to having an antivirus software, you should invest in an anti-spyware solution or download a free utility to assist you in combatting spyware threats.
Once you install the anti-spyware software on your computer, you must keep your anti-spyware application updated to keep up with the latest forms of spyware. Configure your anti-spyware software to routinely check for updates. If your anti-spyware software does not contain the latest update files, it will be rendered useless against the most current spyware threats.
- Be cautious when web surfing -- The best defense against spyware is not to download it in the first place. Spyware is often installed on your computer when you visit an infected or malicious website. Therefore, you should exercise caution with links to websites from unknown sources. In addition, you should only download programs from trustful websites. If you are uncertain about a program you are considering downloading, conduct further research by analyzing reviews about the product. When downloading a specific program, ensure you’re not downloading pirated software. Spyware can be distributed by exploits that promote software piracy.
- Lookout for pop-ups -- Malware can lure you into installing spyware on your computer by prompting you with a pop-up window. If you see an unwanted or random pop-up alert, do not click “Agree” or “OK” to close the pop-up window. This will actually install the malware on your computer. Instead, press Alt + F4 or click on the red “X” on the corner on the pop-up alert to close the window.
- Keep current with operating system updates -- Important system updates provide significant benefits such as improved security. Just as with any antivirus and anti-spyware software, not keeping up with operating system updates will make your PC vulnerable to the latest malware threats. In order to prevent spyware threats, ensure you use the Automatic Updates feature in Windows and have your computer automatically download Microsoft security updates.
- Apply patches to software installed on your computer -- Ensure that you have the latest patches installed on all of your software applications, such as Microsoft Office software, Adobe products, and Java. These vendors often release software patches for their products to fix vulnerabilities that can be used by cyber-criminals as means to deploy malware such as spyware.
- Harden your browser settings -- Updated web browsers may help prevent exploitation by taking several defensive steps against spyware. Most web browsers will warn you of executable programs and will suggest a safe course of action. In addition to having an updated web browser, ensure that you have properly configured your browser and that all of your plug-ins and add-ons are updated, including Java, Flash, and Adobe products.
- Enable your firewall -- Firewalls monitor the network and are capable of blocking suspicious traffic which can prevent spyware from infecting your system. You can enable the Microsoft Windows Internet Connection Firewall for your computer.