One of the additional duties that I have at the Children’s Home I work at is managing the home’s website and about half of the computers on campus. I can spend anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a weeks cleaning out virus’, spyware and other malicious software from computers in the cottages. On top of repairing operating systems that have been damaged by people trying to circumvent the filtering software. One of the things I have come to realize is that there are very few things that are truly free on the internet.
Information for the most part can be had for free, but entertainment is going to cost you something. Either a subscription fee or the cost of removing malicious software and dealing with endless pop-ups. There are several places to play free games safely like yahoo, MSN and Candystand but there are also many sites that are more than happy to install malware onto your computer with their games. You may be able to find a place to download a free song, but most of those places will include spyware or ad-ware with it.
There are several decent free spyware removal tools Spybot Search & Destroy and Adaware are two very good ones. However, they won’t remove all spyware and to-date I have not found a product that will. One place not to get spyware removal tools is from a pop-up window from a free game site, it will only install more spyware. Your best defense against spyware is to avoid it. Don’t visit sites that are likely to pass on Spy-ware most free game & music sites, e-mail stationary sites, emoticon sites, Porn sites, bootleg software sites, gambling sites, etc. If a site asks you to download a program, don’t unless you are sure it is from a site you can trust.
Toolbars, there may be other safe ones but the only ones I trust are Google and Yahoo. In fact if you do online forums, blogs , chats, etc. I highly recommend the Google toolbar; it has a great spell checker that will save you a great deal of embarrassment online. Most of the other toolbars are spyware.
Finally, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER be without anti-virus software. There are some very good paid packages and I prefer the subscription services but there is also some decent free ones. AVG Anti-Virus is free for private use and is way better than nothing.
I have had several computers donated to the home because it was cheaper to buy a new one than pay a professional to remove all the spyware and virus’ from their system. That is where a lot of our college students get their computer after I have spent a few days with it. Protect yourself and you will save yourself a bunch of headaches.