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Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
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Anti-Spyware Strategies, Part 1:
Clean Out Your System

Do you suspect that your system is infected with adware, spyware, or other malware? Here's how to get rid of it.

A Word on Cookies
Most spyware scanners and cleaners report tracking cookies, sometimes called third-party cookies. Usually these types of cookies are associated with advertising that is displayed on a site, where the actual advertisements are delivered by a different site. Most large ad networks such as DoubleClick and TribalFusion use cookies, primarily so they can determine what ads have been displayed and so that they won't show the same ad to one user too many times. The privacy concern with tracking cookies is that they could be used to follow your computer across multiple sites if those sites all used the same advertising networks.

While cookies from networks such as DoubleClick aren't spyware per se, you might as well delete them.

The bottom line on third-party cookies is that they don't do you any good, so you might as well delete them. They are not really spyware — they are not even software — but they don't benefit you, so there is no reason to leave them around. Almost any time you go online, unless you have your browser set to reject all cookies (which could severely limit your browsing ability), you will accumulate a half-dozen tracking cookies after visiting a few sites. When a spyware scan detects them, just delete them.

Step Five: If All Else Fails
If several anti-spyware tools can't clean out the problem, the system may have problems that require an experienced spyware hunter to remedy. Or perhaps the spyware scanner is reporting results that are confusing. If you're using a commercial anti-spyware product, the best thing to do is contact the vendor through their technical support line. It's possible this is a new type of spyware that is not yet detected, and they may want you to send them a sample of the affected files.

Anti-Spyware Strategies, Part 1

•  Introduction

•  Step One: Back Up Your Data

•  Step Two: Look Around

•  Step Three: Choose An Anti-Spyware App

•  Step Four: If All Else Fails

•  Image Gallery: Clearing Restore Points

The major anti-spyware vendors such Symantec, McAfee, and Computer Associates also offer detailed information about specific threats on their web sites. If you have a favorite vendor, you can simply research the malware using the site's database. You can also use Google to search within a site (for example gmt.exe site:symantec.com). Finally, if you want to find the most information quickly, simply enter the name of a suspect executable file into Google. Generally, the major sites will have results in the first page or two of results.

Spyware cleanup help is also available for free through several forums on the Internet. Two good places to look for help are the forums at Spyware Warrior and PC Pitstop. If you don't find your problem already posted, then post yours, making sure that you explain the solutions you've tried and the problems you're still seeing.

Dave Methvin is Chief Technical Officer at PC Pitstop, a security Web site.

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