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SPYWARE

‘Spyware’, refers to a category of software that, when installed on a computer, may send pop-up ads, redirect your browser, or monitor the web sites you have visited. More invasive versions of spyware can even record what is typed on the keyboard such as logon credentials and other personal information.

 

Even non-malicious spyware raises important privacy implications including:

  • What information is being gathered?

  • Who is receiving it?

  • How is it being used?

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Symptoms that indicate spyware is installed: May include the appearance of new and unexpected:

  • Toolbars in the web browser

  • Icons in the system tray

  • Changes to the search engine your browser usually employs

  • Changes to the home page

  • Pop-up windows

  • Random Window error messages

 

Other indicators may include:

  • The computer suddenly becoming sluggish (for example, when saving files).

  • Being redirected to web sites other than the one entered into the browser

 

MITIGATION STRATEGIES

Be wary of:

  • Links within pop-up windows: These windows often install spyware. To close a pop-up window, click on the "X" icon in the title bar and not the "Close" button within the window.

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  • Unexpected dialog boxes: Which ask to run a program or perform another type of task. If in doubt, select "no" or "cancel," or close the dialog box by clicking the "X" icon.

 

  • Free software: There are many sites offering customised toolbars or software that will appeal to certain users but be sure to check out user reviews and their popularity. Downloading programs from untrusted sites may expose you to spyware.

 

  • Following email links for anti-spyware software: Like email viruses, these links may serve the opposite purpose and actually install the spyware it claims to be eliminating.

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  • Adjust your browser preferences; to limit pop-up windows which contain harmful active content and to prevent redirects. Certain types of cookies can also reveal what pages a user has visited. Rather than deny by default, most browsers allow the user to fine tune which sites can use cookies so that the overall surfing experience is not adversely affected.

REMOVING SPYWARE

Run antivirus software for detection and removal. If problems persist, run legitimate spyware removal tools from, trusted vendors. Be careful that the spyware removal software is compatible with the existing anti-virus software however, as this can sometimes affect their effectiveness

I'M INTERESTED IN BETTER CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY

A VPN, which can be downloaded from your app store, will help protect the confidentiality of your online activities by encrypting your data.  Quite often, they will also offer anonymity, by routing your traffic through privately owned servers operated under strict privacy agreements.

Always keep anti-virus software up to date and update your systems

See something not quite right? Email: EMSOUCyberProtect@leicestershire.pnn.police.uk