Viruses and Spyware: All You Need to Know

Is your computer under the weather? Consult these tips.

  • Sharon Tanenbaum
The symptoms: listlessness and uncharacteristic behavior. But despite your headache, you’re not the one with the bug―your computer is. The culprit could be a virus or spyware. Read on for the cure.

  • So what are viruses and spyware? Viruses are codes that infiltrate your computer, usually through e-mail attachments. If your computer is newly sluggish or if your e-mail contacts receive messages you didn’t send, chances are your computer has a virus. Spyware is software secretly installed by advertisers via pop-up ads. It monitors sites you visit and floods the screen with pop-up windows.
  • How do I get rid of these virtual toxins? A program like Norton AntiVirus 2010 ($40, symantec.com) will kill both types of bugs and guard against new attacks. If the problem is just spyware, download and run Spybot Search and Destroy (free at safer-networking.org).
  • Can I prevent future attacks? Don’t click on pop-ups (no, not even for the free iPod) or open e-mail attachments from strangers. If you want to open an attachment, scan it first by saving it to the hard drive, opening the software, and running a manual scan. Prognosis for future health: excellent.