With so many users on the internet, it feels like open season by spyware. Acknowledging the problem and then taking a few simple steps to protect yourself ensures that you are less of a target. Spyware has become a big problem for computer users. They are programs that sit on a computer collecting sometimes sensitive data and net browsing habits.
Spyware programs can sneakily find their way onto a computer when free software is downloaded or when certain websites are visited. They can also be picked up through some peer to peer networks. Once on a computer, they can cause a nuisance by redirecting web searches, installing unwanted bookmarks or bombarding a computer user with pop up ads tailored to other search terms. It can also make computers slower and crash machines. And stored passwords can be stolen by malicious spyware. These are serious concerns for anyone concerned about online security.
According to a recent survey, 90% of PCs are infested with spyware. Each computer has on average nearly 30 spyware programs on them. And the Center for Democracy and Technology knows that there are hundreds of cases out there. Many experts would agree that a push for enforcing a new law is needed for online security.
Computer users are urged to regularly scan their machines with more than one anti-spyware program. It's always a good idea to use a combination of anti-spyware software. This means that one might recognize spyware that the other may have missed.
Laws to Protect the Consumer
U.S. law makers have voted to introduce harsher penalties for those who spread spyware on people's computers. The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for two bills which clamp down on spyware programs. The I-SPY Prevention Act of 2005 makes it an offence to access a computer without permission via spyware programs and introduces sentences of up to five years in prison for criminal activity. The SPY Act means that firms need a user's permission before installing programs onto their computers. The bills would also mean harsher penalties for those behind phishing scams.
Phishing scams are where cyber criminals direct people to spoof websites which look like official bank or e-commerce sites fooling them into giving away confidential information. The two bills now go to the Senate for further consideration. Consumers have a right to know and have a right to decide who has access to their highly personal information that spyware can collect. Although the moves by Congress are encouraging, there are still obstacles to preventing criminal use of spyware such as lack of global enforcement policies as well as the complex details involved in distinguishing different types of spyware.
From January 1 2005, California State introduced the Consumer Protection Against Spyware Act which banned the installation of software that takes control of another computer. Companies and websites also have to disclose whether they will install spyware under the Act.
A Few Simple Steps You Can Take to Staying Safe Online
1) Install anti-virus software. Using a combination of anti-spyware software means one might recognize spyware that the other may have missed.
2)Keep your anti-virus software up to date.
3)Install a personal firewall.
4)Use Windows updates to patch security holes.
5)Do not open e-mail messages that look suspicious.
6)Do not click on e-mail attachments you were not expecting.
By taking these few simple precautions, being online can be a much safer and more enjoyable experience. And total piece of mind.
� Copyright 2006 Judy Howard
About the Author
Discover proven tips and techniques for online success and advice on online security at Market for Internet Success
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