Symptoms of a Spyware or Adware Infected Computer
Endless pop-up browser windows
redirected to unwanted web sites
unexpected toolbars in your web browser
unexpected or new icons task tray
browser's home page suddenly changes
certain keys fail to work in your browser (e.g. the tab key)
random Windows error messages appear
your computer suddenly seems very slow when opening programs or processing tasks
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Dialing Up to the Internet
How to Stay Safe OnlineMost Americans who use the
Internet from home access it through a "dial-up connection"
that uses a modem to call in to a server over a regular
telephone line. A dial-up connection to the Internet may be
lower-tech - and slower-tech - than a broadband connection,
but there's one thing they share: they both depend on the
user to keep them operating safely and securely.
If your computer is attacked by a virus or a hacker, it really
doesn't matter what type of connection you use: the damage is
done. You could lose important personal information or software
that's stored on your hard drive, as well as valuable time
trying to make repairs. And your computer could be used without
your knowledge to attack other computers, including those that
protect our national security.
If you use a dial-up connection, a few "do it now" tips can help
you minimize - and perhaps even avoid altogether - the damage
that a virus or hacker can wreak on your computer.
- Use anti-virus software. A virus is software that is
planted in your computer to damage files and disrupt your
system. Most viruses enter a computer hidden in a seemingly
innocent program, often as an attachment to an email. Then the
software code attached to the program produces copies of
itself and inserts the copied code into other programs. A
virus can result in lost data or require costly repairs to
your system. You can avoid these risks by installing and using
software that scans your computer and your incoming email for
viruses, and then deletes them.
You can download anti-virus software from the websites of
software companies or buy it in retail stores. Look for
anti-virus software that recognizes current viruses, as well
as older ones; that can effectively reverse the damage; and
that updates automatically.
- Regularly update anti-virus software. To be effective,
anti-virus software must be updated routinely with antidotes
to the latest "bugs" circulating through the Internet. Most
commercial anti-virus software includes a feature to download
updates automatically when you are on the Internet.
- Don't fall for a fibbing email. Most viruses won't damage
your computer unless you open the email attachment that
includes the virus. So hackers - people who use the Internet
to access computers without permission - often lie to get you
to open the attachments. The email may appear to come from a
friend or colleague, or it may have an appealing file name,
like "Fwd: FUNNY TEXT" or "As per your request!" It could
appear to link to a website or promise to clean a virus off
your computer if you open it. Don't open an email attachment -
even if it looks like it's from a friend or coworker - unless
you are expecting it or know what it contains. If you send an
email with an attached file, include a text message explaining
what it is.
In addition, don't forward any email warning about a new
virus. It may be a hoax and could be used to spread a virus.
If you receive a chain letter or hoax virus alert, let the
sender know so they can stop spreading the virus.
- Use strong passwords. Hackers may try to steal your
passwords to gain access to the personal information stored on
your computer. To make it tougher for them, use passwords that
have at least eight characters and include numbers or symbols.
Avoid common words: Some hackers use programs that can try
every word in the dictionary. Don't use your personal
information, your login name or adjacent keys on the keyboard
Don't share your passwords online or over the phone. Your
Internet Service Provider (ISP) should never ask for your
- Take advantage of your software's security features.
Chances are your web browser and operating system software
give you some options for increasing your online security.
Check the "Tools" or "Options" menus for built-in security
features. You probably have several choices for what types of
files you want to accept from other computers. If you don't
understand your choices, check them out using your "Help"
Similarly, your email software may give you the ability to
filter certain types of messages, such as some unsolicited
bulk email, or spam. But it's up to you to activate the
- Back up important files. If you follow these tips, you'll
reduce the chances of falling victim to a hacker or virus. But
no system is completely secure. If you have important files
stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disk, and
store them in a safe place.
- If your computer is infected, take action immediately. If
your computer has been hacked or infected by a virus,
disconnect from the Internet right away. Then scan your entire
computer with fully updated anti-virus software.
Before you reconnect to the Internet, think about how your
computer could have been accessed and what you could have done
to avoid it. Did you open an email attachment and let loose a
virus? Is your anti-virus software out-of-date? Take steps to
minimize the chances of it happening again.
- Report serious incidents. If you think you've been hacked
or infected by a virus, email a report of the incident to your
Internet provider and the hacker's provider (if you can tell
what it is). Often the ISP's email address is email@example.com
or firstname.lastname@example.org. By doing this, you let the ISP
know about the problem on their system and help them plan.
If you have particularly sensitive information stored on your
computer or you're planning to upgrade to high-speed Internet
access, don't forget to:
- Install a firewall. A firewall is software or hardware
designed to block hackers from accessing your computer. A
properly configured firewall makes it tougher for hackers to
locate your computer and get into your programs and files. A
firewall is different from anti-virus protection: Anti-virus
software scans your incoming communications and files for
troublesome files; a firewall helps make you invisible on the
Internet and blocks all communications from unauthorized
- Turn off software features that you don't use. You may
want to turn "off" some software features - instant messaging,
printer-sharing or file-sharing - that typically are "on" when
a computer is shipped. Because these programs facilitate the
passing of information between computers, they are an
excellent entry point for hackers.
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