Yes, you have a spyware infection. No, it is not the same as a virus. Yes, we can help.
Go West IT removes three to four spyware infections a week on average. Infections seem to come in waves and they usually pick up when one of our crew comments aloud “…haven’t seen many spyware infections lately.”
Having a spyware infection does not mean you have engaged in questionable online activity. You do not have to gamble on the Internet, visit adult websites, or shop for male enhancement drugs to get a spyware infection. Really nice people get spyware infections without ever having stumbled across an adult website.
Spyware is simply an application installed on your PC that is designed to disrupt your ability to use your PC, gather information about you, or to entice\force you to buy something you would not buy if you were not infected with spyware. Most spyware infections are spread through web servers that were either set up for the purpose of spreading spyware or that were not adequately protected\patched and subsequently became a spyware host.
Like germs spread by people who cough in their hand and grab the doorknob to your office, spyware lies in wait on web servers for the next innocent visitor. A seemingly innocent pop-up warns you of a potential problem with your computer, you heed the warning, and then a moment to late stop and wonder if that was a legitimate message. It wasn’t. You’re infected.
Now what do you do? If you don’t know how to clean up spyware, stop. Pick up the phone and call someone who does. Spyware removal can sometimes be accomplished with tools like Malwarebytes or Combofix but only if caught early. DO NOT buy software online to remove your spyware. The best tools we use are free. If free tools don’t work, you probably need someone who knows how to look at processes, delete hidden files, and clean registry keys. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily make the situation worse.
If the spyware infection is really bad the best course of action may be a complete wipe and re-install of your system. The decision to do this is usually a financial decision because the amount of time it will take to clean a bad infection surpasses the amount of time it will take to give you a clean start (4 -5 hours). In most cases your data can be preserved if it is determined that a wipe and reload are your best option.Let me offer one last piece of advice. I cannot tell you how many times a customer has called and said something to the effect of “…My son was using my laptop last night and now I have pop-ups all over my screen”. Kids are incredibly proficient web surfers. Consider investing in a separate PC for your kids so that if it becomes infected it will not take you out of commission for several days.