Early warning sign: does it contain Spyware?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Betsy S. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I am such a beginner on the computer, but enjoy reading your newsletters (even though some topics are way over my head)! I'm writing you today because I am concerned about some of the freeware programs that are mentioned -- not only in your newsletter -- but on other web sites, as well.

I just read your article on "How to Visually trace down a Hacker", and I was very interested in downloading VisualZone and trying it out on my machine. My question is: Don't hackers often use 'free' software to get into your computer? How can I be sure that any 'free' software I may use is not a hacker ploy? Is there any way to tell? "

My response:

This is a very good question. The easiest way to tell if a program on the Internet contains Spyware (or is Malware, which is another way to say "bad software"), simply visit Google and type in the program name, followed by the word 'spyware'.

For example, if you were concerned that VisualZone has Spyware, you could type in "visualzone spyware" in Google. If Google presents a lot of postings where a lot of users are complaining about the software, then it's a safe bet that you should steer clear of the software. But don't worry -- VisualZone and VisualIce offered by VisualSoftware is safe and does *not* contain Spyware.

Side note: I personally use Spy Sweeper to keep my system safe from Spyware, because it prevents an attack *before* it has a chance to do any damage. On the other hand, many freeware Spyware removers only clean after a system has been infected. Some Spyware variants can be difficult to completely remove from a system and can result in sporadic system behavior and strange error messages, which is why it's better to protect yourself before hand. More info on Spy Sweeper here.

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