Spyware scan and removal

Yes I know this isn't quite a Quake 3 Arena matter but I just know you're going be interested in this one non the less. I hadn't really given this much thought until I came across a message thread on the polycount forums; somebody was talking about finding this weird .exe program on their system and they couldn't figure out what it was or what it was doing there (it wasn't a virus etc.). He mentioned it to a friend and was told that it was a piece of spyware and that he should download this program that finds and deletes these (often hidden) files from his system.

He did and found nearly 200 suspect files, that's a lot of files..!

I thought this was interesting, what are these programs?, so I investigated further just to make sure it was legit, it was - I actually received that same day a Webmonkey weekly that had a link to the file for download.

I downloaded the program, virus scanned it, several times I might add :-), and installed it. I found 30 suspect files on my system.

What's going on...?

Everybody knows what a 'cookie' is right? In a nutshell, a text file containing some basic details about you that web sites use to 'track' visitors, well there's also another form of tracking device, which is 'smarter', called 'spyware' (it can be in the form of a simple 'cookie' text file, or an actual .exe program) and companies actively use it to collect data on what you do, usually whilst you're online; what banner ad's you click, what pages you visit and the content you're interested in seeing. This one of the reasons we always seem to get so much junk mail.

Unfortunately this data can also include your more sensitive details, such as credit card numbers. Because the text files this data is stored on aren't natively encrypted or secure, it means these details are open to possible viewing by any 3rd party that get access to your system. Not something you'd want?

Our problems is, we don't know this stuff is there, sitting on our hard drives gather and sending data. In some instances it can even effect the efficiency of your dial-up connection. There are ways to detect it but you need to really know your way around Windows.

Fire walls and such don't necessarily work either as the data is often 'bundled' in a packet sent via a program that has permission to access the net, Internet Explorer, for example. They are not classed as viruses or worms so a virus scanner won't pick them up.

The only 'weapon' we have is anti spyware software (like AdWare), who use their own database of suspect files (much the same way a virus scanner works) to remove the files it finds (you do have a choice so you don't delete something you should or have doubts about). I've used it (I always scan my system after a heavy session online), and it checks out OK, it's a freebie - always gets the thumbs up - so if you're interested follow the link and get it. (Make sure you follow the usual precautions about installing new software; scan it etc. etc.)