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Spyware advice for parents of teenagers

Hi folks!

Well, I've been learning a lot, thanks to all of you. Now I would like to write an article that I can give to people I know that will help spread the word about spyware, adware, trojans, hijackers, keyloggers, etc. It needs to cover all the bases and answer these questions: Where's this stuff come from? (ie., what are our kids doing???) How do we get rid of it? And how do we keep it from coming back. I've gotten a start, and would love to get feedback to help me make it the best possible. Remember it's geared toward folks that really don't know much about computers, so we have to keep it simple. This isn't something I intend to publish, but just in case I ever were to publish it, I *promise* I will give credit to everyone who helps me with it!! Seriously though, I just want a nice handout that I can give to folks, especially as kids are heading off to college with new computers. Thanks!!


Teenagers and Spyware

Why does your computer keep getting overloaded with pop-up advertising and spyware? Here are three primary reasons:

1)      Surfing pornography related web sites. Just don’t do it.

2)      Surfing for free games and other free software. This includes the free search bars. Most free software is sponsored by “adware” – software that allows them to display adverting on your computer. To make this type of advertising more effective they install “spyware” on your computer to learn about your surfing habits. If they know what types of sites you visit, they can better target you with ads you might be interested in. The basic idea seems harmless, unfortunately, the spyware either is or can be used to collect additional information from your system, to download other programs without your knowledge, and in the worst case, to capture keystrokes that can then be searched for credit card numbers and other critical information, leading to identity theft.

3)      Surfing for “cheat codes” or “craks”. The idea of most games is to conquer various levels, and the big competition amongst kids is to see who is at the highest level. If they get stumped by a certain level, they can get “cheat codes” that let them get past that hurdle and move onto the next level. Similar, but illegal, are “craks” – various methods of pirating software. Some craks are programs that will generate a keycode for a specific name or user, others are the actual serial numbers that people have made available to the public. The danger lays in the fact that most sites the offer cheat codes and craks are sponsored by pornography. A youngster may go looking for a simple cheat code, and be inundated by pornography related pop-ups. In some cases, they may see a pop-up that tells them to “click here” to download a program that will stop all these pop-ups. Unfortunately, that program is not what it says, it actually downloads more spyware onto the system and then the user is bombarded by even more pop-ups, even if they aren’t connected to the internet.

How can you protect your computer – and your kids?

There are several free programs you can download and run on your system that will help minimize the risks. The most important step you can take though, is education! Educate your children on the risks of the internet, and on the types of sites they need to stay away from. For cheat codes, they should stick to the books that they can buy. At least then they can see exactly what they are getting. For craks and pornography – just don’t do it! For other things, like freebies, it’s best to check with a known and trusted authority, someone who can check it out safely and let them know if it’s worthwhile.

Adaware - free
This program searches the system for known data-mining, aggressive advertising, and tracking components. It then lists the results and offers to remove or quarantine the components. Updates are available regularly, so always check for updates before scanning.
Spybot Search & Destroy – free (donations appreciated)
This program searches for many known spyware and adware components. It also offers an “immunization” feature, which will block many components so they cannot get into your system. Updates are regularly available, so be sure to check for updates before scanning.

Spysweeper – shareware with free trial
This program detects and removes many traces of spyware including Trojans, adware, keyloggers, and other system monitoring programs. This program can also run in the background to monitor your system, watching for incoming spyware and browser hijackers, warning you of any intrusion.

SpywareBlaster – free
This program doesn’t scan and clean like the others, but rather it prevents many items from being installed in the first place by disabling many options within your browser and operating system that can be exploited by malicious software.

McAfee Avert Stinger – free
This utility is used to remove specific viruses. It is NOT an antivirus program! This is only to be used in the instance of an infection and your normal methods do not remove the virus.

Trend Micro Free Online Virus Scan
This site will scan your system for viruses, and includes many Trojans. Not all Trojans are picked up by the popular antivirus programs, so if you are experiencing problems with your computer, but can still get online, this should be your very first stop. In many cases it will find Trojans that are in files that cannot be cleaned, and in most cases, these can be deleted. However, always check with a known and trusted authority first!

HiJackThis - free
This program will check the system registry for all installed browser add-ons, buttons, startup items, etc., and then allows you to select the items for removal. This is an advanced program and should only be used under the direction of an expert. However, it is a good idea to have this program, as you can save the results to a log file which can then be emailed to an expert for review.

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6 Solutions

Don't forget to add that regularly updating native virus protection software on the pc itself is a "must" and so is a decent firewall. Many vendors are increasingly providing "Internet Security" products which combine virus protection and firewalls and even web-filtering. The list below is by no means exhaustive, and i'm sure others will have plenty to add,

Trend's a good one - (I'm upset with Symantec at the moment due to all the Trojans it's missed recently)
PC-cillin Internet Security

Panda Platinum Internet Security

Firewalls - Have heard good things about this (though not tried it yet so maybe not for the novice)
Kaspersky Anti-Hacker 1.5
ZoneAlarm - Popular and Easy to use

Deb :))
Also you should include the importance of updating the operating system this will keep you to date with the most recent security patches, etc.........
http://v5.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/v5consumer/default.aspx?ln=en-us    for windows.
http://v5.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/v5consumer/default.aspx?ln=en-us    for linux.
hoodyAuthor Commented:
Ack - duh!! Both excellent additions! The kind of "I knew that!" THAT'S why I wanted to ask advice here, I get too busy chasing my 2 year old and forget 80% of what I ever knew! Thanks!!

More?? <grin>
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OOOPS....... i also wanted to mention the importance of filtering software such as netnanny and others. Some newer editions of anti-virus programs come with parental control systems to allow the parent to block access to certain site and content.
hoodyAuthor Commented:
That's an excellent point - and something I have no experience with, so I welcome recommendations from real-users!
Hi again,

Perhaps add that increasing security on Internet Explorer itself is a good thing
Increase Your Browsing and E-Mail Safety
How To Configure Internet Explorer Security

Also - Go to your Internet Explorer properties - Advanced - Browsing Section
There are two settings:
Enable Install On Demand
Enable Install On Demand Other

Unchecking these can also help prevent adware,

I highly recommend AVG AntiVirus (www.grisoft.com) as there is a free personal version available and it will catch many of the trojan horses that Norton and McAfee do not.

When talking about teen's, two of the most common ways that they get infected with spyware and viruses are:

1. Peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa for sharing files and downloading MP3's, Movies, etc.
2. Web sites for Blogging (posting of personal logs, diaries, etc) - many are notorious spyware injectors

hoodyAuthor Commented:
Excellent! I didn't even know about blogging. I've heard of it, and seen a few here and there, but didn't know that was a big thing with teens, nor that it was an opening for spyware. Thanks!

Here's the names of a few content filters most are products for which you must pay but there are a few freebies out there.
http://www.net-nanny-software.com/      paid service
http://www.surfcontrol.com/content_filter.html   paid service
http://www.spychecker.com/software/filter.html  paid service
http://www.timberlinetechnologies.com/products/contentfilt.html  ,<- a listing of free and paid filters
I am unfamiliar with other programs but i use Norton internet security 2004, it includes anti virus, firewall , ad blocker, spam blocker and content filter... So far I've had no problems with it but others will undoubtably steer you towards other products. It seems anti virus programs/software companies have their followers and those who oppose them..
Norton Internet Security is a great tool and I do recommend it for many basic users. For more advanced users I would say to use Zone Alarm as it is a better firewall, AVG as it has been doing better lately than Norton AntiVirus, SpamBayes for Spam Control as it is by far the best anti spam software but only works with Microsoft Outlook.

If you want it all in one package even if the individual parts arent as good as what you can do seperatelt, than Norton Internet Security is a good choice.
Also you may want to add that if at any time parents or teens do decide to download and install something from the net to please read carefully as they are proceding with the download and install, a large number of these downloadable software/files come with bundled packages....search bars,pop ups, dialers etc.... often you are given the choice to accept the package with the acceptance box already checked and if it's not noticed and unchecked before you hit the next button, you've just installed all the other unwanted junk.
As KerryG mentioned above, p2p or share networks are notorious for trojans and viruses, some of the chat networks are also bad for this type of stuff.

Here's some more useful resources:
To protect yourself further:

    * IE/Spyad <= IE/Spyad places over 4000 websites and domains in the IE Restricted list which will severely impair attempts to infect your system. It basically prevents any downloads (Cookies etc) from the sites listed, although you will still be able to connect to the sites.
    * MVPS Hosts file <= The MVPS Hosts file replaces your current HOSTS file with one containing well know ad sites,
{pron} sites, malware sites, etc.. Basically, this prevents your computer from connecting to those sites
by redirecting them to - which is your local computer.

And also see TonyKlein's good advice:
So how did I get infected in the first place?

And here's a link to an excellent anti-spyware site that's loaded with links and information.....

Good luck!
also there's the built in explorer filter settings, found in the properties, content tab.
hoodyAuthor Commented:
Just a quick update -- all of your suggestions are great! I'm working on re-writing it to include all of these various tips, etc. When I have a new version, would you recommend/want it be posted here, or a new topic, or I can put it on my website. I'd like to make it available to all of you to use if you want, as well as anyone else. Hopefully I can do that this next week.
I would like to see the finished product, if you don't post here give us a link to it.
use FIREFOX browser instead of IE

between ad-aware, spybot S&D, spyware blaster, spyware guard, and a good Anti-Virus like AVG, 95% of web users will be fairly secure. there are that unlucky %5. (very rare, but have encountered users with spyware problems that have yet to be found and fixed.)
when your security is comprimised, HiJack This and a Forum like TomCoyote where volunteers will help you get back to computing.

There is alot of Excellent information about spyware infections at this address, http://www.bleepingcomputer.com

Just don't browse the internet while being logged on with administrator rights.
hoodyAuthor Commented:
Hi all!

Sorry to be gone so long, life is hectic, especially with a 3 year old vying for attention over my computer. Anyway, I've done up a rough draft, and have posted it here:


I hope to fine-tune it some more in the near future, and do welcome any and all feedback to improve it. If you find it to be useful in your own work, you are welcome to use it.

Shall I leave this topic open, or go ahead and close it?
Looks good, you may want to add to following link to the highjackthis area, unless a person is very familiar with their system they won't know what to correct or delete after running the program, They can copy and post their highjack log to this site and the provided link labels items as nasties and should be removed, takes some of the worry/uncertainty out of it.
teenagers are big on file sharing programs, while this can be frowned upon, sometimes it is best to provide them with
a safe alternative.

Here is a link to alternative File sharing programs, without all the Nasties commonly found in most file sharing programs. http://forums.spywareinfo.com/swi/articles/p2p/ look in the CLEAN section.

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