Considering the lengths some companies will go to in order to ensure their adware/spyware cannot be easily removed, the best protection is prevention. Fortunately, preventing adware and spyware is simple enough and if you're willing to apply a little elbow grease it won't cost you a dime.
Today's attackers are frequently targeting legitimate sites, compromising them via various attack methods and then implanting those sites with hidden iframes that load malicious content from the attacker-owned site. So-called drive-by downloads can happen silently when you visit one of these compromised sites. Your first step should be to ensure your system cannot and will not install programs automatically over the Internet or launch them automatically from email. Begin by following the steps outlined in Web Browser Security and the Email Help Center.
Ensure your operating system is fully patched against any known security vulnerabilities. Use the free Secunia Software Inspector to alert you to unpatched vulnerabilities in Windows, your browser, and third party apps such as Adobe Reader, Flash, and Apple QuickTime. Use the Secunia Software Inspector at least monthly to ensure your computer software is fully protected against known exploits.
Be alert, informed, and aware. Social engineering attacks are designed trick you into installing harmful software. Keep abreast of the top Internet scams, don't fall for hoaxes, and beware of rogue scanners that only pretend to secure your system.
Disable the Windows Messenger Service. The Windows Messenger Service can be exploited and used to dish up unwelcome advertising on unsuspecting users. The service is also victim to a critical exploit that could allow malicious attackers to remotely run code on vulnerable systems. Disabling the service will prevent both the pop-ups and the exploit.
Before you buy or download any new software, take a few moments to research it via your favorite search engine. And before you install it, make sure you read and understand the End-User Licensing Agreement. Quite often, victims of adware and spyware click "yes" to disagreeable actions - take the time to read any prompts that occur. The following articles discuss some of the tactics employed by previous purveyors of adware and spyware. Familiarize yourself with these tactics and apply that knowledge to ferret out other potentially unscrupulous vendors before letting them attach themselves to your system.
- Wotch Yourself takes a step through of a privacy statement from Wotch networks and helps identify potential pitfalls.
- Beware of Friendly Greetings describes the email tactic and implications of the End User Licensing Agreement from PerMedia sites.
What to do if you've already become infested with adware or spyware? Follow the tips in Removing Adware and Spyware to rid yourself of these miscreant marketing threats.