Spyware and Malware Management

 by Allan J. Greenberg

Spyware is a term used to denote files that are received from the Internet and stored in your computer that provides information on you or your Internet usage to a server somewhere. Malware is any software (including spyware) that is unwanted and can do harm to your computer or to the information stored on your computer.

Is a cookie malware? Cookies are small text files that are written to your hard drive when you visit many, if not most, Web sites. These files may contain information such as your user ID and password if you selected to have the Web site remember your ID and password and it may contain what links you used in the Web site and other similar information. Cookies therefore can be good. As mentioned above, if you choose to have a Web site remember your ID and password or other information, the cookie is good. If you block or delete this type of cookie, you have to enter the information each time you return to the Web site. Some cookies help the Web site designer to obtain feedback as to the visitors experiences on that site. Cookies can also aid the e-commerce sites with their check-out process. In fact, some Web pages will not be displayed if you block their cookies.

You can instruct your Web browser (Internet Explorer 6.0) to accept cookies, block cookies or prompt you for acceptance or rejection of the cookie. Furthermore you can select what action be taken for first and third-party cookies. A first-party cookie is one that originated from the Web site you are viewing. A third-party cookie is one that originated on or is sent by a Web site other than the one you are viewing. To select the action you would like to take, click on the Tools menu and the Internet Options command again and select the Privacy tab. Click on the Advanced button in the middle of the window. Put a checkmark in the "Override Automatic cookie handling" checkbox. Next, select what action you wish to take for first and third-party cookies by clicking on one of the radio buttons in each column. It is highly recommended to block all third-party cookies. Close the windows with the OK button twice.

Installing programs to detect (and in one case, block) malware. There are several free programs that you can download and install to search your hard drive for malware and delete it. The author is currently using both Lavasoft's Ad-aware 2008 Free and SpyBot Search & Destroy 1.5.2. Both programs do a fine job of identifying malware and give you the opportunity to delete it. As with antivirus programs, you must check for updates to the databases for these programs to insure that you are finding all the unwanted malware.

Microsoft offers a free program to detect and block malware for Windows XP users. It is called Microsoft Defender and can be dowloaded by clicking on this link. It also runs in the background and protects your computer from malware when you are online. It automatically updates itself when needed to make sure your have the latest malware definition.

It is said that no malware program can detect and eliminate all malware, so it is good practice (at least for now) to run all three programs to check your hard drive for malware.