If your computer has slowed way down or crashes a lot, you may be the victim of the latest online invader — spyware. Microsoft says spyware is the cause of more than a third of all PC crashes these days. Consumer Reports cover story this month, "Protecting Yourself Online" looks at this latest scourge and the best way to fight it.
Repair shops are plenty busy these days fixing computers overrun by spyware.
Steve DiLoretom, Repair Shop Owner: "I would say it is probably the number one issue right now, spyware."
Consumer Reports says just about anyone who goes online has spyware on his computer. This one is overwhelmed by it.
Kim Kleman, Consumer Reports: "Spyware is parasite software that sneaks onto your computer when you click onto a pop-up ad or download free software. It can track where you go online and even highjack your browser."
A computer loaded with spyware can be inundated with pop-up ads. They just keep coming. And if you try to do a search, the computer slows to a crawl or freezes up.
Kim Kleman: "Spyware is a cheap way for online advertisers to target their ads or have people click onto their Web site."
Consumer Reports' Dean Gallea just tested six programs designed to protect your computer against spyware. Ad-aware's free program is a good choice. Whenever you run it, Ad-aware scans your computer and eliminates any spyware it finds.
But some people need even more protection.
Dean Gallea, Consumer Reports: "If you do a lot of downloading you should run a program that continuously scans for spyware and prevents it from ever getting on your computer."
The 27-dollar version of Ad-aware does provide continuous scanning. So does PestPatrol, which costs 40 dollars. Consumer Reports says don't put off installing a spyware program. Otherwise your computer could wind up in the shop like so many others.
This is James Andrews.
Consumer Reports says the spyware programs it recommends are available online. The Ad-aware software is available at Lavasoftusa.com. You can find Pest Patrol at pestpatrol.com.
To avoid spyware, Consumer Reports say be wary of free music and movie file-sharing programs. To get even more information on how to safeguard against spyware go to Consumer Reports.org. The information will be available for free until September 6th.